Of Gog and Magog

September 29, 1879
Garret's Cadre

From the Diary of Garret John McEwan
September 29, 1879
In the Vicinity of Alder Creek, California. Weather hazy, but not oppressive.

I haven’t been accustomed to writing in some while, but it seems prudent to set these things down where they can trouble no man, but prove a record one day should the need arise.

There is too much to tell in the main, but the upshot is I have reunited with Sgt. Marcus Hewett, late of the 18th Georgia Volunteer Infantry. Last I saw the man was in Jefferson, Missouri, back some seven years, and had not thought of him since but to down a shot in his honor when I was drinking to my absent comrades in arms. I don’t like to admit it, but I had assumed he had, like many of the men I last saw in that environs, perished at Union hands. But not a month ago he turned up in Alder Creek, very soon after I did, and I was glad of it, for the doings in the town were evil and Marcus is a damn fine shot and as brave a man as the South ever bred.

Alder Creek being without Law, Marcus and I have stepped into the void, him as Sheriff and I as Deputy. That might seem on its face a backwards standing, as I outrank him considerable as a soldier, but in truth he’s the kind of sergeant lesser men want to follow, whereas I’m an officer in name alone, without regiment under me as an Irregular Scout.

He’s a broad, big-chested man, built to earn respect, and I’m made more on a slender and unremarkable style, so it stands to reason him taking the name of Sheriff, being the kind of man to inspire confidence and fear in equal measure.

We’ve run into so many unnatural and fetid doings out here I can’t recount them all, but in the month Marcus and I have been here, there are some that have become, for want of a better word, friends.

There’s Reverend Hezekiah Adams, whom we all call Kiah. He’s been Alder Creek’s preacher and judge for as long as any hereabouts seem to remember. I think he’s Baptist, though he has more in common with John of that name than any pastor I ever heard teaching the Word of the Lord in a pulpit. If I found him eating locusts and honey, I’d not be surprised. He’s bearded and half-toothless, with a gunny sack for a garment and vermin nesting in his long hair, and the locals mostly treat him like a harmless old coot, but the man can call down the Almighty like a true prophet. More than once he’s laid hands on and healed me of an injury I was sure would cripple me, and he saved Marcus from an ugly death by festering gunshot, as well as some others I’ve witnessed. There’s more to Kiah’s story, which I may tell when I have discerned it more clearly and have time and space to set it down.

Also in our cadre is an Easterner who goes by the name of Doc Knuckles. He’s a bit of a dandy, and Kiah thinks he’s a Jew, though I’m not sure how you can tell that of a man by looking. Doc is his stage name, not for any actual medical degree, which is a use to him as he pedals a tonic the vapors of which alone can blister the hair from a man’s nostrils. Whatever the curative powers of his nostrum, it will undoubtedly ease a man’s DTs, if that’s what ails him, and it burns a trick in a pinch. The Doc’s a solid man, and generous with his wares, though he keeps to himself as much as he lets on, so I don’t feel I’ve had a fair measure of his character yet. But he’s stood up for me and mine, so I’ll call him comrade until he proves himself otherwise.

Most recently, a kid with a fast gun and a burning need for notoriety has joined us: Carter Burwell, out of Wichita, Kansas. He looks to be eighteen or nineteen, not yet in his full beard, and reminds me of more than a few of the boys I mustered in with back at War’s commencing. He’s brave, though, and for all he boasts of it, he is indeed keen with his pistols. If he settles down and doesn’t get himself killed trying to make his name, he’s got the makings of a man to be reckoned with some day.

My friend Ben Tsosie, the half-Navajo I’ve been acquainted with since I came this far West, has followed me to Alder Creek, if that’s a fair statement of things as they stand. That is to say, he comes to see me at the claim I staked just outside town near the abandoned mineworks, just as he used to find me when I was riding trail in this country. He’s a mystic and a shamen, and I don’t doubt that the spirits he talks to are Angels of the Lord, but with their names obscured into the Navajo tongue. Ben’s the only man who I can say that truly knows my heart, for he knows every inch of me, the good and the bad, and I count myself blessed.

These are the men I call friend these days.

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In the back of Kiah’s bible, in small, tight, handwritten script, on the blank pages, is a journal of events from Kiah’s point of view.

Sept 1 YOL 1879
Met a chinawoman, walked her to town. Went by parsonage. No one there. Our bedroom was as my love left it.

Sept 2 YOL 1879
Town giving sacrifice to false Crow god, turned against itself like the Israelites after Solomon. Lord sent the Chinawoman, two Rebs, and a Jew barber. They will be sufficient.

Sept 3 YOL 1879
They were sufficient. But now little Sarah Leifson is sick, as if starved. The Lord has yet not seen fit to save her.

Sept 4 YOL 1879
Up all night to hallow this church ground and to learn the cause of the Leifson girl’s illness. But it eludes me.

Sept 5 YOL 1879
The Rebs, the Chinawoman, and the Jew are dispatched Westward to find some answer to the starving. I heard the crying again today.

Sept 8 YOL 1879
The Leifson girl is dead. Others are coming. I have opened the church to them, and feed them with such as I can find, but it does no good. The church smells like death. Lord, see to it your servants return with assistance, and right soon.

Sept 11 YOL 1879
The ones sent West have not returned. Did they give up and depart for Perdition? I will know. The sufferers here have died and are buried. Borrowed a mule. Going West to Scully.

Sept 13, YOL 1879
Had a dream. The crying. A snake eating itself. Going East at the bidding of my Lord to battle a great evil. I can only hope the Lord sends help to his humble servant.

Sept 16, YOL 1879
Arrived in Boonesville. Populace strangely well-provisioned. Strange trading, but no great evil. Festival coming.

Sept 17, YOL 1879
Slept behind church. Visited Garrett Farm. Dimwitted husband. Kindly, private wife. Something not right.

Sept 18, YOL 1879
The crying. All night. Slept at the Garretts. Snooped. Keep hearing about a J.A. Only the lord fed the multitude and that from multiplying food. Food is coming from nowhere.

Sept 19, YOL 1879
I took of what was offered at the Garrett’s. Ate the bread, locked myself up. Nothing yet.

Sept 20, YOL 1879
One of the Rebs showed up, wanting me to help the Jew.

Sept 21, YOL 1879
The Chinawoman is dead. Trampled by a horse. The Lord bless and keep her, and the Angels give her peace.

Sept 23, YOL 1879
Helped the Jew. Back to Boonesville, with a China Man now among us. They don’t know I hear the crying all the time now.

Sept 26, YOL 1879
Blur of blood and smoke. Broke up festival’s devil feast and found its cause. Stole the basket. Hid out in church. Talked to much and got ambushed. Abominations with hungry bellies. That basket steals the food from other people’s stomachs! When they starve, they rise as devils! Little Sarah Leifson was a monster. J.A. came. Burned the basket. He’s my son.

Sept 27, YOL 1879
The skinny Reb banished Jeremiah Adams, by telling the boy his own name. Li got hurt. Went back to Alder Creek and fixed him up. New fella around. I forget his name.

Sept 29, YOL 1879
The crying is back. Told the skinny Reb everything. Moved a consumption patient into the parsonage.

Sept 30, YOL 1879
An Indian healer, a banker, and a walking murder victim come to town today. The Indian killed the walking murder victim. Not sure what to do about the banker.

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