The Long Way by Maria Jesu Estrada is no ordinary zombie short story. In fact, as a horror story aficionada, I can safely claim that it’s one of the best horror stories I’ve read in a while. Not since Tannarive Due’s has there been good speculative fiction that makes a statement about the human condition, or more precisely, the American condition.
Ishmael is an undocumented Mexican mechanic left for dead by an American family who happened upon him after he was dumped by a coyote who took him for all he’s got. There was a scene in which the young son of the racist driver left a bottled water by him and this act of kindness stayed with Ismael. Flash-forward to now, when a zombie outbreak left people trapped in their RVs or trailer homes, he felt compelled to help out his xenophobic, racist neighbors.
Estrada deftly weaves past with present, real monsters with metaphorical ones, entertainment with political commentary, but instead of conveniently demonizing the bigoted neighbor, what becomes central to the plot is the friendship that eventually develops between Ismael and his neighbor.
I remember my history professor Mrs. Ner, resplendent in her designer attire and accessories, oversimplifying (or not) the World War II conflict by stating “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Indeed.