4 of 5 stars.
This short story appears in Extreme Zombies edited by Paula Guran. The plot follows the two surviving deputies, Snopes and Bascomb, for one day in the desert village of Ocotillo, California on the third month-iversary of V-D Day, ie Zombie Apocalypse Day. Despite some bumps and battles, the well-guarded and razor-wire fenced hamlet has struck an uneasy balance between its living and deadbeat [undead] citizens while keeping all others [living and dead] out. Many of the deadbeat citizens have been muzzled and chained either at home or at their place of work where they more-or-less carry on with their tasks. Many of the families are now composed of both living and undead members.
Zombie stories are nothing if not social commentary. This tale brings a couple topics to the forefront. Firstly, it challenges the notions of us vs. them. While the living and undead citizens are treated a little differently from each other, most of these differences come down to individual prohibitions and punishments doled out by the town judge/mayor due to bad or mal-social behavior. More striking is the outsider status granted both living and dead that wander up the interstate. After a few bad experiences allowing in a handful survivors from elsewhere, the town has become isolationist. Worse yet is Ocotillo’s treatment and thinking about anyone from Mexico. “Wetbacks” are thought of in horrendous ways without regard to whether they are living or dead. The second main theme is the control of power and justice and how it is meted out to members of the various aforementioned factions.
Pleasantly, the ending held a double surprise, only one of which I saw coming. I recommend this story.
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