The weather that night was perfect to spend on the roof of the science building with the large telescopes, gazing at the wonders of our Universe and beyond. It wasn’t too cold, though you could see your breath in the air, and the sky was cloudless and dark, making the twinkling of stars that much brighter against the field of blackness.

I met a few astronomy classmates at the west entrance of the sorority building. Six of us walked around the stately old building until we reached the nearest foot bridge over the creek that ran through campus.

The girls in front stopped short and I nearly collided with them.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. There was no one on the bridge and it was wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side across it. It was one of the nicest and newest bridges on campus; it had wrought iron handrails and it curved seamlessly to connect the sidewalk on the southside of the creek to the sidewalk on the north. The bridge I took to class each day was a narrow wooden contrivance without rails accessed by slippery steps on each side. In winter I felt like I was taking my life in my hands crossing it. This bridge looked perfectly safe.

“It’s the bridge.” said Emily in a stage whisper.

The expression on my face must have conveyed my confusion.

“You know, Roe, the haunted bridge!” Kari nudged me in the ribs as if I was supposed to remember all their sorority superstitions, like the rule against stepping on certain sidewalk blocks. I nodded in understanding but not in belief.

I’d heard rumors about the bridge from the sorority sisters for months but never gave it much thought; they were prone to exaggeration and group hysteria. I was okay being around two or three of them at a time but when a collective got together the hive mind of their respective sororities took over their personalities and better judgment. It made me cringe inside. I prided myself on my individuality.

I shrugged and took a second look at the bridge using more than my five sense. I couldn’t sense anything wrong with it. It was mundane concrete and metal.

“It looks okay to me.”

With trepidation the girls in front of me started across, Kari and I following behind. Halfway across the bridge a chill crawled up my spine and a wave of dizziness made me grab the handrail. It was a familiar, but unwelcome, sensation. Magick was rising.

Before I had a chance to protect myself or the others, something from below welled up and swallowed us.

The girls felt it, too. They screamed and ran across the bridge. I was overcome with fear but I stood my ground. I held onto the rails, the feel of the cold metal under my hands grounding me as I closed my eyes and reached out with my mind to see what I faced.

From a distance I heard Emily call out to me, “Rowan, come on!”

I shook my head and held out my left hand, both to keep the girls from coming any closer and to feel what was surrounding me.

I was cocooned in a dome of protection as perfect as one of my own creation, but with a twist.

My fear disappeared, replaced with curiosity and suddenly I was swamped with a burning need to discover everything I could about the sphere.

It took me a second to realize what was happening. I took a deep breath and cleared my mind on the exhale. Once my mind was clear, the overwhelming emotions left as well.

The bubble was mirrored on the interior, reflecting emotions back at the person inside it but magnifying it a hundred or more times. The girls were afraid when they crossed the bridge so terror was bounced back at them from the spell.

It was a neat trick, one I hadn’t seen before, and as soon as that thought crossed my mind, I felt my emotions turn against me again.

I took another deep breath, emptying my mind. Instead of thinking, I acted. I followed the curve of the reflection bubble down through the cement bridge to the side of the creek below.

I don’t know what I was expecting to find, I only know that it wasn’t what I found. There in the rocks underneath the bridge was a small fey creature about the size of a raccoon hunched over and feeding on the amplified emotions brought to it by the spell. In the darkness I could only see its general size and shape and the fact that it wasn’t a native of this world.

There was no sense of evil from the being, no sense it meant to harm anyone; it was only doing what it had to do in order to survive. Who was I to say it didn’t have a right to do that?

I left it alone and returned my consciousness to my body. I stepped outside its realm of influence and shook off the effects of the spell before joining the girls waiting for me at the end of the bridge.

“What was it?” asked Kari as she looped her arm through mine. “Are you okay?”

“Everything’s fine. The bridge isn’t haunted.”

“Roe, you can’t tell me you didn’t feel that?” Emily said as the six of us started walking again.

I smiled widely, “Trust me, there’s nothing to fear on that bridge but fear itself.”