Setting: a smallish room, quiet and dark as if at night. There are two doors, one on each end, and a tiny gleam of light shows beneath the larger one. The decor is simple and homey, but at the moment the room is a little untidy. A couch, which usually occupies the far wall, has been pulled to the center of the room in haphazard fashion, with the matching coffee table pushed out of the way entirely. Various tables and chairs are scattered about. Among the furniture, barely visible in the shadows, are many lumpy shapes crowded together on the floor. And fast asleep on the couch, stretched out on his stomach with one arm dangling over the side, is a dark-haired young man. He's wearing jeans, a comfortable long-sleeved shirt, and brown leather shoes. He is ELIJAH WOOD.
After a while, the smaller door opens. A slim middle-aged woman darts out, quickly shuts the door behind her, and leans wearily against it. She is the SECRETARY, and she's not looking very tidy herself. Her normally neat hair is in disarray, and her prim clothes are rumpled and smudged. She clutches a clipboard to her chest and looks downright frazzled. Taking a second to catch her breath, she turns and begins to pick her way across the floor.
SECRETARY: Oh dear, oh dear... I do hope they'll stay quiet for a while.
She pauses when she reaches the couch, leans over and checks to see if Elijah is still sleeping. She sighs mournfully and shakes her head, then skirts the couch and moves to the larger door. With a last glance over her shoulder, she opens the door and slips out of the room. The brief increase in light reveals the slightest glimpse of the shapes on the floor before the room goes dark again.
A minute or two goes by in silence; Elijah snores softly. Then he jerks a bit and startles himself awake. Groggy, he rubs a hand over his face and starts to roll over...
ELIJAH: Mrrgh... oh, my heaAAGH!
... and promptly falls off the couch. Beat.
He sits up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. Then he stops, looks around him, frowns. He has no idea where he is.
ELIJAH: What the... I don't remember— Geez, what did I do last night?
Still not quite awake, and feeling wigged out but trying to ignore it, he climbs stiffly to his feet and looks around. It's too dark to see much, but he notices the light under the door and starts walking toward it.
ELIJAH: [yawning] Man, if the guys pulled another prank while I was – oof!
He catches his foot on one of the lumps and goes pinwheeling off balance. He's so busy falling on all fours, he almost doesn't notice when the lump gives a yelp and sits bolt upright. The lump is a person. A rather small person. A rather small, hobbit-shaped person that looks remarkably like...
PIPPIN: Watch where you're walking!
ELIJAH: Well I'm sorry, but you were right in the –
He stops – huh? But before he can turn around, the shape right in front of him gets jarred out of sleep by the noise, pops his head up, and looks around warily. Elijah is suddenly nose-to-nose with a three-foot-tall furry-footed pointy-eared version of himself – none other than FRODO BAGGINS.
For countless moments, there is only open-mouthed amazement. Then...
FRODO: What devilry is th—
ELIJAH: HOLY SHIT!
And they're moving, both scrambling backwards as fast as they can go. Elijah gets tangled with Pippin in the process, somehow pulls himself free, and ends up sprawled half-upright against the side of the couch. Utterly and completely off his head.
At the same moment, the rest of the room is suddenly in an uproar. Woken by the shouting, everyone else that was asleep on the floor jumps up and starts talking all at once. You guessed it – it's THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. MERRY and SAMWISE appear next to the other hobbits and blink in astonishment; ARAGORN, BOROMIR, and GANDALF spring over to them and stand at ready with swords drawn; GIMLI can be heard in the background, cursing and fumbling for his axe.
GANDALF: [thundering] Who are you, and what evil brings you here?
ARAGORN: Stay behind me! He could be dangerous!
Just then, the Secretary comes dashing back into the room. She takes in the scene before her and all but whimpers in frustration.
SECRETARY: Good gracious me! Please, everyone, there's no need for violence!
ELIJAH: [fixated on Frodo, pointing wildly] It talks! The dummy is talking!
SAMWISE: [offended] Here, you keep quiet!
Another panicked cry makes further discussion impossible – but it's not Elijah this time. The Secretary fumbles for a switch near the door, and glaring light floods the Lounge.
SECRETARY: [wailing] Oh, don't kill him! My supervisor will never forgive me!
She pushes past the group by the door and runs across the room. Elijah scrambles to his feet and staggers back, pulling his eyes away from the bizarre sight of his movie counterpart – only to gape in renewed shock at the image behind him. Across the Lounge, backed into a corner, is a wide-eyed and frantic ORLANDO BLOOM. He's pressed hard against the wall, frozen in terror – and, strangely enough, is not wearing a shirt. A feathered arrow is embedded in the wall about a centimeter from his head. Another is aimed point-blank at his throat by one mightily pissed off Elven Prince of Mirkwood – LEGOLAS GREENLEAF himself. Gimli stands growling beside him, axe poised, backing him up.
LEGOLAS: Changeling! Sorcery!
By this time, the rest of the Fellowship is up in arms. Elijah tries to run forward and is neatly stopped by Boromir's sword tip appearing a few inches from his face.
ELIJAH: Aiee! Watch it, that's sharp!
ELIJAH: Orlando, don't move, for God's sake! They're crazy!
SECRETARY: [hostage negotiator] All right, everyone, let's not do anything foolish. We can work this out. No one has been hurt yet.
GIMLI: Let the changeling speak for itself! Who sent you? Where have you taken us?
ORLANDO: Me? How should I know?!
SECRETARY: Please, I can explain everything if you'll just give me a chance. Put the bow down. You too, gentlemen, there's no need to be pointing swords at people. Come on, now.
BOROMIR: [pointing his sword at people] Why should we trust you?
The Secretary has recovered enough to be irritated. She rolls her eyes.
SECRETARY: Do we really look like warriors to you? Just you put your sword away and I promise we won't attack you. I mean, honestly.
The Fellowship looks at the "changelings"; there is much logic in her argument. They look at Gandalf; he lowers Glamdring and nods slightly. Reluctantly, they step back. Legolas eases his bowstring, though he keeps the arrow notched. Orlando ducks out of the way and goes straight for Elijah.
ORLANDO: [clutching him] Elijah, thank God! Where are we? How did I get here? Who are these people? [looks down] And where the hell is my shirt?!
ELIJAH: This is insane! I thought you were in London!
ORLANDO: I am in London! [beat, helpless] I was in London....
ARAGORN: [to the Secretary, furious] Then you are behind this? Speak, woman!
SECRETARY: Oh, don't take that tone with me! I didn't summon you all the way out here just to have you be rude to people!
PIPPIN: Summon us?
SAMWISE: [fearful] She's a wizard!
GANDALF: [exasperated] I'll thank you to keep your mouth shut, Samwise.
SECRETARY: Don't be silly, of course I'm not. I just try to keep things tidy around here – and that's been all but impossible of late, I'll say that right now.
SAMWISE: But what do you want from us? And who are they? How strange they look!
ORLANDO: We're the strange ones here! Oh, bloody brilliant!
ELIJAH: What's going on? Is this some kind of sick joke?!
GANDALF: I care not what game is being played. We have a mission to complete, and we are not toys to be trifled with. Return us to our realm at once, I command you!
SECRETARY: I beg your pardon, Mr. Gandalf, and please don't turn me into some sort of amphibian for saying so, but I wish I could! I'm under strict orders to resolve this matter, no matter how many rules had to be broken. Believe me, if things were any less desperate, I'd never get a character involved in such a fix, much less drag the actors into it. I mean, look at them! They're so fragile, the poor dears.
ORLANDO: [snapping out of it somewhat] Now just a minute....
ARAGORN: Enough of this parley! Explain yourself or let fall your blow, but choose now before I set my sword in you!
SECRETARY: [sighing] For the sake of the upholstery I wish you wouldn't, but you can't hurt me. And even if you won't ask nicely, I'll do as you say, though I can already see it will take a good deal of explaining.
GIMLI: Out with it, then!
She takes a moment to brace herself.
SECRETARY: There's no way to put it gently, so I'll just be blunt. This place is called the Fanfic Lounge. You have been called here because you all figure prominently in fan-written stories loosely based on the works of Tolkien. My superiors in this realm have declared a state of emergency, and I need your help to put it to rights.
ELIJAH: Fan fiction?!
SECRETARY: [the words spilling out of her, tired and fretful] Oh, I was afraid this would happen, I'm so so sorry for everything! But you Middle-Earth folk were so scattered about and muddled up in the stories, I had to pull you out of the book itself to have any hope of finding you all together and in your right minds, and I had to search hours for reasonable stories of you two and even those were flying in the face of decency right and left – oh, this is awful, oh dear....
This little rant throws the last hint of reality out the window. Everyone stands there and stares at her, slack-jawed.
ELIJAH: [calmly] Oh, I get it. I've lost my mind, and now I'm hallucinating. Gosh, I hope I don't injure myself.
ORLANDO: Wait, wait, let me see if I've got this right. You wanted my help, so you decided to pull me from a poncy pre-teen internet story where I'm getting half-naked for some unimaginable reason?
SECRETARY: [crossly] Look, I did the best I could! That story was rated NC-17 for explicitness; you're lucky I got you out as early as I did!
Oh, the mental imagery. Orlando is speechless.
Boromir's had enough. He goes for his sword hilt.
BOROMIR: This is madness! You wish us to believe that we are naught but characters in a storybook?!
SECRETARY: [not missing a beat] No less than any living creature whose life is guided by some unseen hand, Son of Gondor. For are not our lives but a story, a small part written and entwined in the volumes of a Greater Tale, one that we follow and yet cannot hope to fully understand? And what did I tell you about the sword, mister?
Boromir isn't sure how to counter that one. He falters a bit and shuts up.
ELIJAH: [shaking his head briskly as if to wake himself] Okay, I can deal with this. I've heard of this. This must be a representation of some psychological "prison" constructed from my repressed frustrations. Or... something.
ORLANDO: [dubious] I don't think...
ELIJAH: [building up steam] No no no. I can stop this. All I have to do is decide to leave. So I'm leaving. Yes. I'm waking up now. And later, I'm getting some really expensive therapy.
As he speaks, he walks determinedly toward the smaller door that the Secretary came through at the beginning.
SECRETARY: [real alarm] Wait! That's the wrong — Mr. Wood, NO!
Too late. Elijah exits the room and slams the door behind him. There's a heartbeat of silence. Then – utter bedlam. An unholy noise erupts, a screeching roar that would upstage a pack of banshees at an N'Sync concert. Orlando, the Secretary, and the Fellowship cower in dread; the walls shudder and the lights flicker.
All at once, the door flies open. As the howling grows even louder, Elijah hauls ass back into the room, throws the door shut, and flings himself against it. Aragorn and Boromir are just in time to help him brace it closed and secure the latch before the door nearly gets blown off its hinges. As the entire room quakes from the onslaught, everyone backs up slowly, pale and shaken. Elijah's collar is ripped, he's missing a shoe, and he looks like he's about to go into shock.
GIMLI: What in the name of everything sacred is THAT?!
MERRY: Goblins! Demons! What are they, Gandalf?
The old wizard merely shakes his head, as though he may know the answer and hopes he's wrong. The Secretary is fussing over Elijah, clucking her tongue.
SECRETARY: Oh, goodness, look what you've done! Are you all right? Speak to me!
ELIJAH: [barely audible] Is ... this ... hell ...?
SECRETARY: [snappish in her relief] Well, it will be to get that lot settled down, thanks to you! You're lucky to have made it out alive! A lesson to all of you – never go into the Mary Sue room without authorization and protective equipment!
ORLANDO: The Mary S— pardon me?
Sure enough, the din on the other side of the door has subsided from earth-shattering howl to the unmistakable sound of girlish squealing. One of the endless multitude can be distinctly heard exclaiming "I got his shoe! I got his shoe!"
GANDALF: [glumly] It is as I feared, then.
The Secretary has led the dazed Elijah back to the couch; he sits limply. Orlando crosses over and sits next to him, concerned.
SECRETARY: All right, here we go... everything's fine. See, here's your friend!
PIPPIN: Everything's fine?! We're trapped in a little room with... whatever those two are, surrounded by screeching she-devils! Black Riders are commonplace next to this!
SECRETARY: You're not trapped. I brought you here, I can send you back just as well.
Gandalf nods slowly. It's as if he, being of the Wise Ancient Sort, has an idea what's going on.
GANDALF: You do mean to release us, then. I feared you had darker intentions.
SECRETARY: [embarrassed] Oh, no. Is that what you thought? What would I do with that silly Ring, even if I did want it?
The Fellowship gasps.
FRODO: You know about the Ring!
SECRETARY: Well sure I do. It's all clearly explained on Page 49. Don't you worry, that's furthest from my mind right now. A moment of your time, that's all I ask, and you'll be back home before you know it. [A fresh bout of squealing from the next room makes her glance furtively over her shoulder.] Just please, help me! This realm is in grave danger, and I didn't know where else to turn!
GIMLI: And our Quest? What of that? We haven't the time to be prancing off to distant worlds any time it suits your fancy!
SECRETARY: I have no intention of thwarting the Quest, I promise you. I'll return you to just where you left off. When you get back, you'll have been gone for less than a second, and you can pass all of this off as a dream if you want.
ORLANDO: Realm, dream, hallucination, I don't care. We help you, you'll let us go?
SECRETARY: On my honor.
ARAGORN: And after that, you will leave us in peace?
SECRETARY: You'll never hear from me again if you don't want. Though you're always welcome here, I'm sure.
There's an uncertain pause. Gandalf frowns, lost in thought. Finally....
GANDALF: Very well. We will do what we can.
Orlando looks at Elijah. Elijah sits back and lifts his hands in resignation.
ORLANDO: Sure. Yeah.
SECRETARY: [gushing] Oh, thank you thank you thank you! You won't regret it, I promise. [walking briskly for the larger door] Just sit tight here for a bit, everyone. I'm going to see if I can find some refreshments, and then we're going to sit down and work this out. [exits, pops her head back in] Be right back!
And she's gone, leaving Elijah and Orlando at one end of the room and the Fellowship huddled at the other. Very soon, the Mother of All Awkward Silences has fallen. Samwise coughs. A cricket chirps.
ELIJAH: [mumbled] I should have gone into commercials.