A Hobbit in L.A.
Dreamed 1990/1/8 by Chris Wayan
I'm a hobbit woman living in Middle-Earth. At least I was. But I have to leave my home in the Shire and run for it--tall faceless figures are sniffing on my trail, for I have a certain Object of Power hidden in my suitcase. Not Sauron's Ring, but he wants this just as much. Nowhere's safe from him.
In the end, I have to leave Middle-Earth itself. I walk out of my world...
...into 20th-century California. I have friends here, and I arranged for a ride over the hill from Belmont or San Carlos to a safe house near Hillsborough. The country here is almost rural; restful for a hobbit.
But my ride doesn't show. I dare not hitch. I wouldn't put it past Sauron to hire an agent or two here, even to have murdered my friend. Well, maybe I can take the bus. The route is marked, and I don't think even Sauron's long arm could snatch a whole bus across the depths of time.
But the bus never comes. If Sauron got the bus, he'll check the bus stops next. I start to walk away...
I lug the damn suitcase up the steep shoulderless road. Turnouts I can walk in, sometimes. A couple of giant cyclists pass me, geared down. They never notice my terror. Great trees like nothing I've ever seen at home loom over the road, shadowing it. No sound of leaves, all somber needles. Darkness falls, fast. I follow the edge of the pavement by feel.
Suddenly it dead-ends. I cast around blind, a hobbit with a suitcase lost in alien woods. Hear girls' voices near, but see nothing. The highway should be near, and I keep climbing. Darker, dimmer. True night now out there. Rocky. A path up a stony bank. I must go on all fours. At the top, I'm totally blind. Grope around, find I'm on a huge flat stone with holes. Cold air rises from the holes. Some warning memory says "The largest stone in the world, capping the oldest, deepest well. Keeping in..." I don't want to know, and remembering tales of Moria, I sure don't want to wake it up. I crawl with great care so I won't fall in. The stone no longer fully covers the pit, and I can feel it rock a bit. I could tip it over if I move too fast. There seems to be pavement on the far side, and I crawl up it shivering, dragging my suitcase.
I reach what seems to be a pass. On the far side is a VW van, standing empty, open. I crawl in the back, down low. Shelter, if the owner doesn't come back. And drive me off to... Sleep slips onto me... almost. A faint voice snaps me back awake, sweating. The voice sounds far off, yet from the front seat. Minutes pass, and it's steady, not nearing, not fading. I peek over the seat back. No one. I start as the Voice resumes from the seat itself! No, a Device of crystal and wire lies on the seat... It's speaking faintly, disinterestedly. I've heard of these Crystal Sets... like Palantirs, but commoner and less dangerous. No one can read my mind through this. But the noise may draw people. I decide to disconnect it. I know all the wires must form a loop to work.
But... I take it apart piece by piece and the Voice goes on!
I give up at last and sleep.
At sunup, the naked crystal still sends the Voice to the Speaker. Clearly these are power objects, though not on the order of the Ring or what's hidden in my suitcase. I pocket the speaker and the crystal, and set out to master this Volkswagen.
It turns out to be a lot easier than I expected because my boyfriend comes over the pass soon after sunrise! He's no taller than I am, but now I can steer by standing on the seat, while he works the pedals below. Awkward, and I'm quite unclear how the gears work. I get it into first by coasting down the slope, shift to 2nd, but can't get it into 3rd. I figure the car is low in the 3rd food group (gas stations have several kinds, you see) and want to stop and feed it, but see no station. As world wakes up, more cars pass us, and it gets too crowded to drive makeshiftily. Finally I pull over and we get out and walk again.
We seem to have driven to a large city in the south called "Los Angeles" (which translates auspiciously into our Westron tongue as "The Valar," I believe). I sense our goal, a safe place for our burden, is near.
I fear the humans on the street, tall dangerous creatures, but they all ignore us. I notice as I wait to cross a busy street (a blue light means it's safe) that quite a few humans are fairly short--and I assume the shorter ones are hobbitlike in character, which is quite unjustified! One woman speaks to me at the next corner--scarcely taller than I am--but mean. Not that she does anything to me; but I can tell instantly this woman's capable of a spite and violence inconceivable in a hobbit.
I look across the street to my boyfriend--but he's walking on ahead. I know somehow that we have to face the perils and temptations of the city of Man alone. Although spite doesn't tempt me a bit. The light turns blue and I cross with my suitcase, ignoring my nasty non-hobbit twin. She spits at me and goes her way...
I make it to my friends' loft alive, with my case. With the thing in the case. I have to live here until I decide what to do with the Power Object. At least Frodo in the old tale knew he had to get rid of it, and where.
We're in danger, of course. Even though Sauron and other Powers of Middle-Earth will find it hard to reach us here, there's subtler risk around us. As we learn Los Angeles ways and live with humans, the stubborn moral fiber that protects us against the lure of power objects will fade. We can be corrupted. My four human housemates, in all friendship, teach me city ways to get by--looking for an angle, moral corner-cutting.
The power object is not inherently evil, as the Ring was, but it can be misused. But we don't KNOW what its right and wrong uses are. No one does. Perhaps that's why we're here--in a society that's had to learn the moral and immoral uses of strange new powers for generations, and survived. Though not unscarred.
Though not well.
One day, at last, my housemates look in my door while I'm staring into the suitcase, wondering what to do with It. They see... the Bucket.
Reluctantly I explain its power: put things in the pail, and in a few seconds they fade to air. Clearly this is useful--but could be horribly misused. And there's worse. Last week, by chance, just as I put a little piece of paper in the bucket, I pictured something I wanted--a human toy, I'm embarrassed to say what. Instead of disappearing, the paper transformed--into what I craved.
I can't tell them this. Human beings have too many cravings, at least here in Los Angeles. They seem to work at finding new hungers as much as at satisfying existing hungers. It's their most alarming trait.
They mustn't find out their wishes can all come true! What would happen then?
Even I'm not immune, but I hope I can single out my hobbit-needs, real needs, from my human-induced cravings. The bucket could be wonderful, in the hands of disciplined hobbits using it to heal, to grant your heart's desire. And my nice tall friends here would use it, I know, to counterfeit wads of twenty dollar bills, to conjure up kilos of really good pot... What am I going to do with it? The gift is too great. I can't trust my friends. I have to go on alone. Until I know what's safe to wish, and what's fatal, and the tricky rights and wrongs between. How can I protect the bucket until everyone understands how not to use magic? How do I prove that consumer products are not your heart's desire?
Are you laughing? Do I seem absurd to you, complaining about the dangers of a well-meaning magic bucket? When you, with all your science, are carrying your own deadly bucket--and reaching in blind!
Well... if you understand heart's desire, call me. I'm in the book. We'll do lunch.
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