‘Dayblood’ by Roger Zelazny: Short Story Analysis
Roger Zelazny wrote ‘Dayblood’ in the year 1984. It’s a story about a man who to his victims is known as Wayne but to his comrade-at-arms, he is known as Werdeth. His job is to protect vampires and the ecosystem of vampires. The story is well written, suspenseful, and has a breathtaking climax which leaves the readers stunned, but thrilled. Zelazny writes suspenseful fantastical stories beautifully, and this story is one of the most interesting ones he wrote in the 1980s. The story starts arbitrarily with Wayne hiding inside a church waiting for someone to arrive. We as readers are not sure who he is waiting for, and what exactly are his motives, but we take to Wayne’s Candance immediately. In the story, Wayne narrates the tale in the first person which is crafted very nicely. We feel one with him and therefore don’t catch that one telling line at the beginning of the story where it is mentioned that he worked technically as a ‘nursemaid to a couple of stupid vampires.’ Those of us who have not read Zelazny’s work think that he is talking about trying to exterminate the fiends and set their souls free. It’s only toward the sudden climax that we get a shock when he breaks the necks of Dr. Morgan, Fr. O’Brien, and Ben Kelman. We are mute as he changes the residence of the two coffins he was guarding and leaves a note in the vampire Brodsky’s hand, telling him to watch his step or else, he will get killed in the old Middle Ages Nosferatu way.
There is a deep allusion to Bram Stoker’s Dracula in this story. Just like in the classic, a fiancé dies because of a vampire feeding on her blood, and then a stake is driven into the vampire’s heart by the male fiancé with prayers being said. It doesn’t reach to that extent in this story for Wayne is out to kill the three people who have come to eliminate and do an exorcism on the vampires. The narrator is telling his story to a certain ‘Virginia’. There is mention of him being a part of a newspaper. He sketches with a pencil on his plastic bag. These are all props to distract us from the main objective of Wayne. Wayne is casual, superhumanly strong, and a person with a cynical sense of humor. The two vampires in question in the story are a paunchy unrefined man called Brodsky and his victim, the fiancé of Ben Kelman called Elaine. She happens to have been the local beauty and Brodsky had been attracted to her. They are to be exorcised but Wayne is there to save them and he works in a sort of group as mentioned at the end of the story. Wayne is highly cynical where the vampires are concerned. He calls them idiots and says they are an endangered species mainly due to their fault. I like the way he sarcastically mentions that Brodsky ‘resides’ in a town of many people and not ‘lives.’ Notice how we are tricked by the mistletoe around the stone image of a deer near the coffins which Fr. O’Brien destroys, rightfully surmising it has something to do with black magic. In the beginning, we think it to be a symbol of diabolical evil, but toward the end, we realize it was a foolish instance of the vampire Brodsky’s old superstition that he would be protected by the charm. We are so focused on the insides of the coffins in the story that we fail to notice, until we have fully read it, that Wayne has broken the neck of the girl’s fiancé, Ben. We remain flummoxed wondering what will come next thanks to the excellent writing style of Zelazny. We were waiting for an exorcism, courtesy ‘Count Dracula style’ but in the end land up with Werdeth and his true mission in life to protect vampires. When I first read this story, it was in the year 2009. At that time, which was when the Twilight series became a huge phenomenal hit, there were many novels written in series tumbling out of writers’ keyboards one after another. That’s when I realized that all this, the vampire mania, had come to pass and has become such a vital part of our literature in the post-truth era thanks to the fantastical writings of some of our twentieth-century writers like Zelazny. Our interest in vampires is just because sometimes we are ‘curious’. Wayne also mentions to Dr. Morgan, Fr. O’Brien, and Ben Kelman that he was there in that church because he was ‘curious’. It’s our innate curiosity in vampire stories that makes us want to read great stories about them and ‘Dayblood’ is one of the best stories in this category. Notice the title ‘Dayblood’; while vampires slept in the day others kept watch over them to protect them. Such people, like Wayne or Werdeth, spilled a lot of blood of innocent people to protect the vampire ecosystem. A few takeaway points from this interesting short story are as follows:
- The sketchbook and pencil and the idea of sketching used as an ‘icebreaker’ for allowing Wayne to enter the crypt with people out to exorcise vampires.
- The concentration on the vampires who looked pale, well preserved with bloody mouths, taking away our attention from Wayne, and catches us unawares about what he was about to do.
- The cynical remark of Wayne in the note to Brodsky not to act like ‘Bela Lugosi’ the famous actor who played Count Dracula in Hollywood. He was not at all what the Bram Stoker Dracula was. In the instance which is being referred to by Wayne or Werdeth, he hoped that unlike Lugosi, Brodsky shouldn’t be hunting after the blood of beautiful women all the time but should space out his feedings. Also, Brodsky lacked Lugosi’s class and refinement.
I enjoyed reading and analyzing this short story. I hope to read more of Zelazny’s short stories in the near future. If you are interested in more book reviews, short story analysis, poems, and other bookish articles then you can visit my blog insaneowl.com. If you are interested in buying my books then you can visit my website fizapathanpublishing.us or fizapathan.com. Happy reading to you always!
Copyright ©2020 Fiza Pathan