We’re back with a brand-new episode of our queer, Philly-based switchblade-and-sorcery web novel, The Dread Eclipse, with new updates published weekly on Thursdays!
In “Ash to Gold,” Ash follows a clue encoded in Valentine’s latest YouTube video, and receives further encouragement to betray his father from an unexpected and untrustworthy ally.
Enjoy the preview below, along with a link to the full episode and a free downloadable EPUB and PDF of all episodes to date. ✨
“Ash to Gold”
story by Mabel Harper & Emrys Webb
written by Emrys Webb
It was almost four a.m., and Ash wasn’t even close to being able to sleep—which normally would have bothered him. He liked to make sure he got his three-and-one-quarter hours of sleep every night (three-and-a-quarter being the optimal duration he’d settled on after nearly a decade of manipulating his consumption of nutrients, minerals, and alchemical substances to maximize his body’s energy efficiency).
But right now, he couldn’t care less about sleep.
Instead, he kept watching Valentine’s new video, which he’d downloaded to his laptop, over and over.
It still seemed kind of unreal. But there was no mistaking. Valentine was cosplaying Ash in this video.
It was a good cosplay, too. Ash had really thought for a half-second that he was looking at himself when he’d first opened the video on his phone’s small screen. But on closer inspection, the version of him in the video was gorgeous, in an impossible, otherworldly way—because it was Valentine’s elegant bone structure between those curtains of hair, Valentine’s long neck and limbs in the black sweater and pea coat, Valentine’s eyes hypnotizing Ash even through solid black contacts.
The YouTuber started out in front of a moody background almost as black as their turtleneck. Instead of bedroom pop this time, something like an old German hymn played on a pipe organ lent a sacred vibe to the soundtrack. Valentine-Ash tilted their head to one side, blinked big black eyes at the camera. Hooked a long white finger in their black turtleneck—gave it a slight, suggestive tug.
The music swelled. A swirl of multicolored light bloomed across the background as Valentine-Ash shrugged off their coat, removed their glasses, pulled their sweater over their head and discarded it—bared a perfectly androgynous torso, an immaculate marriage of angles and curves. Closed their eyes, ran their hands lightly over their porcelain arms and chest.
The background flushed suddenly from color to dazzling white.
Valentine-Ash opened their eyes, revealing irises that were now starbursts of shimmering gold.
A rapturous D major chord progression underscored the final tableau: the transformed Valentine-Ash framed from the waist up, naked against the white backdrop, which was spangled, along with their pale skin, with light of every color in the rainbow. Their black hair streamed in slow motion as if caught in a gust of breeze. A halo of twinkling crimson and gold rays radiated from their crown.
“Nigredo, albedo, rubedo,” Ash whispered to himself, fingertips softly brushing the screen. “Ash to gold.”
Who was this beautiful stranger who seemed to see him—who knew the deepest wish he’d never shared with anyone?