TITLE: The Opposite of Magic
GENRE: Contemporary fantasy
Emily stared at the gargoyle, mystified and a bit amused. She'd never seen one indoors before. In a basement, no less.
Eyes bulging, mouth gaping, hands rending its face, the small statue looked not only horrible but also reproachful, as if it knew she felt sorry for herself and its definition of misfortune did not match up with hers. It crouched beside the arched door at the bottom of the stairwell, above which--she now noticed--was taped a message straight from Dante's Inferno: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
Good God, nobody was going to visit her during office hours. Shaking her head, she opened the door, anticipating cardboard cutouts of tortured sinners or something equally silly.
Instead, an empty passageway made entirely of stone stretched ahead, deeply shadowed. Bare-bulb fixtures clung to the ceiling, casting small islands of light. Torch brackets--empty ones--dotted the walls. Even for a Gothic Revival building, it was over the top.
"This isn't a basement," she said, appalled. "It's a dungeon."
"Isn't it great?" a male voice called out, startling her so thoroughly she dropped her bag.
The man popped out of a connecting corridor and strode over with hand outstretched. "Bernie Ballantine, medieval lit. You must be the history department castoff."
"I'm afraid so," she said, wondering if the professor--who looked to be about sixty--was colorblind or had donned a neon-yellow fedora on purpose.