GENRE: Fantasy (contemporary)
Emily Daggett sustained herself through graduate school with an image of what awaited: Research in a cozy campus office. Classes of eager students. Lively chats with co-workers.
Reality proved to be dismissive colleagues, an overloaded course schedule and--the worst part--an office that wasn't in the history wing at all. The basement, that was where it was.
"Can't be helped," said the department chair, a brisk, bony woman whose last name was Fletcher. "Not enough space ..."
Emily, following Professor Fletcher to this can't-be-helped office, had the impression she was being banished. Locked in a dungeon, let out only to give lectures, she thought as she clanked down an old metal staircase. So consumed was she by this disheartening reflection that she didn't see the gargoyle until she was nearly upon it.
Someone had set the plaster grotesque--mouth split in a silent scream, hands rending its face--next to the arched door leading into the basement. Taped above the door was a message in red ink: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
She stared at it in mingled confusion and amusement, picturing the many students who would change their minds about visiting during office hours. Fletcher, exasperation twisting her lips, said: "Yes, well ... Second office on the left; impossible to miss."
The door at the top of the stairwell clanged shut before Emily ventured in. Her first thought, when rational thought returned, was: Ye gads--this really is a dungeon.