‘From a Watchman in Sloane, Texas, 1858’

Julian J. Alexander
4 min readMar 19, 2024


Dearest Alma,

I write to you today with great sadness, and with the acrid memories of a funeral pyre still clinging to my clothes. I have been a watchman of Sloane now two months and eight days. In that time, I have admitted some sixty people passage into the fortified town, allowing them to make for themselves a new life. Those of us with extensive military experience are sent to the outposts across the plains, with orders to provide temporary shelter and safe passage to those travelling to the town.

Having arrived in Sloane two years ago as a labourer, the stagnation of my work has led me to the position of watchman, manning the gates with seventeen others. I now carry a rifle in place of a hammer, something that feels alien and out of place in my arms despite my attempts to familiarise myself with its form and function.

The town has begun to heave with human life, and with this has come a stark rise in crime; rampant thievery being the most prominent. Since the advent of the Great Eclipse and its terrible consequences, we have found ourselves short on resources with which to expand the town, yet we usher more newcomers in each day with the promise of lodgings and work. Whilst we can still accommodate for several months to come, it is only a matter of time before we shall be forced to turn those in need from this sanctuary and send them on the longer and more treacherous road out west. I fear another violent change is coming, my love.

The Stricken have grown greater in numbers, and it is no longer uncommon to observe a herd of the foul things congregating on the plain in broad daylight, waiting for the chance to feed upon vulnerable travellers. I hear them gibbering and hollering from my post; a pack of twenty or so that have taken up residence in a disused farmhouse a mile from the north gate. The patriarch of this wretched family is a hulking creature with sun-punished skin and eyes of the deepest scarlet. On some days, he stands upon the crest of a hill beyond the reach of our rifles, taunting and jeering as the daylight fades away.

The men returning from duty at the outposts no longer celebrate their survival, nor their success in bringing new blood to Sloane. They are stone-faced and fearful, and speak of things in the plains and mountains that are more arcane than even the Stricken, things that were once men and beasts of this world twisted and remade by the Pestilence. Jude Beall, who was stationed near Houston, returned with stories of great haggard wolves who spoke and walked like men, and things of enormous size lurking in the waters of the bayou that were not alligators. Once I would have believed that the Stricken were all we had to fear, and now I am not so sure.

Today, my dear Alma, we were forced to dispose of a family who stood begging at the north gate, for in the caravan they travelled with lay a boy and girl of no more than seven years of age, visibly succumbing to the Pestilence.

Knowingly admitting any afflicted individuals to the town is punishable by death, given the risk posed by bringing the Stricken near the townsfolk.

The mother and father had made an effort to dress the two children up as to conceal their deteriorating health, but their condition was noticed almost immediately by one of the medical staff, who demanded that the poor things be brought out into the sunlight. Perhaps you have not had the ill fortune to observe a young life succumbing to the Pestilence, and if that is the case Alma, I pray that you never do.

The two youngsters were glassy-eyed, their skin a marble of sickly colours and bruises, as though recently exhumed from the depths of a mass grave. They were wordless, soundless, near motionless save for a disquieting turn of the head when their mother began pleading with us, swearing on her life that they were not sick with the Pestilence.

There had been four of us to greet them, and we were able to put them down swiftly. I shall not say who of this ill-fated family was put to rest by my hand, but the act shall haunt me for the rest of my time in this world.

We burned the bodies and the caravan with them, exterminating the diseased flesh and blood with flame, as is custom throughout these lands. The herd of Stricken observed this bonfire from the hill, chattering and babbling in that hideous mockery of language that man has yet to understand. They did not approach, but they are growing bold, and organised. I fear that they will soon lay siege to our town, and should the terrible stories that our scouts bring back with them be true, we may face things much more fearsome than the Stricken.

I know that I have spoken many times of you travelling to Sloane with Robert so that we can establish here a life for ourselves, but it is with aching regret, Alma, that I must ask you to stay away. Sloane is no longer the sanctuary it was when I first set foot here with chisel in hand, and the road from Harrisburg is rife with new and unknowable terrors. I shall continue my duties here in Sloane and put away my wages, and then I shall return to you with enough money to take our family far from this cursed land. Give Robert my love, and tell him that his father will be home before he knows it.

All my love,




Julian J. Alexander

Fiction writer largely inhabiting the realm of horror and the weird.