Saason 2, Episode 2
By Lady Alyssa and Random Dent
We are very sorry about the length of time between updates; we’re not trying to hurt you, it’s just people keep asking for essays from us. You’d think we were supposed to be studying or something… Anyway, this is longer and funnier than the last one.
Disclaimer: JRR Tolkien owns all the characters; Beelzebub still owns Jeremy Paxman’s soul. The neighbours all belong to us, but ‘Enterprise’ belongs to Paramount (and we could sooo write it better than them).
Rating: PG-13 (holes; strife; language; Armageddon)
Reviews: yes please, please or else it means we have to work.
Story notes: ‘Protect & Survive’ is mentioned a few times in this – it was the UK government’s public information campaign about nuclear war – if you want to know more, go here: http://www.cybertrn.demon.co.uk/atomic/
Important: this, while still a comedy, does have some rather black humour and mentions of nuclear war in it. If this is going to upset you, don’t read it.
Episode 2: The Fallout Shelter of Impending Doom
Rosy fingered dawn graced the eastern horizon, birds sang and Legolas sprang out of bed with catlike agility into his first tai-chi position. As he progressed through its forms the plants on his window ledge opened, elf and plant in perfect harmony. For every morning that Legolas woke up in a room not containing a bearded, unwashed, unkempt man who seemed to be able to snore and drool at the same time, he became a little bit closer to achieving complete oneness with the rest of the universe. He and Frodo had begun talking again. They’d tried talking to other members of the Fellowship, but this hadn’t worked. Any member of the Fellowship either found talking about current affairs, art, literature and so on, either boring, ‘poncey’ or downright incomprehensible. They’d both tried talking to inanimate objects, but after Legolas had found Frodo having an in-depth discussion about the latest exhibition at the Tate Modern with the toaster he decided that apologising was probably best. At least, before either of them started thinking the toaster was talking back at them. His morning meditation finished he dressed and left his room in search of muesli.
Unfortunately, oneness with the universe didn’t include oneness with the articles currently covering the stairs and he fell headfirst down them. He uttered some not very serene words and got up just in time to avoid being hit by four hobbits falling down the stairs in their usual breakfast stampede.
Frodo picked himself up first and launched into vengeful mode, “But I tidied up in here just last night. Who’s left all their stuff on the stairs; if it was you , Pippin, you can tidy it up yourself…”
“If it wis me, ah widn’t have fallen over it!”
The argument was prevented from getting any further by Aragorn sliding down the banisters in a movement that would have made Mary Poppins look like a tap-dancing hippo. Legolas and the hobbits stared at him.
“I tidied this up last night and I don’t want to have to do it again this morning. None of you seem to appreciate how much I do for you. I don’t care if it’s going to make you miss the best part of the day, but this staircase is going to be safe again before you leave the house!” Sam grabbed Frodo by the neck of his dressing gown to restrain him from disemboweling Aragon with one of the railings that held the banister up.
“It’s not mess. At some point in the very near future you’re all going to thank me for taking this important step in our survival.” The hobbits began exchanging looks of dread. “We’ve all been watching the news recently and if we keep on just sitting back and ignoring the signs we will regret it later. Or maybe we won’t. Because we’ll all be dead. No, we need these reinforcements over the cupboard under the stairs for protection against…” dramatic arm gesture “nuclear fallout.”
“Valar save us, not again.”
While Aragorn was in a shower ‘appreciating the uncontaminated water supply while we’ve still got one’, the rest of the Fellowship had a house meeting in the kitchen.
“It’s like the Cuban Missile Crisis all over again,” said Frodo.
“It wasn’t just the Cuban Missile Crisis. Remember when he was foreseeing our deaths by meteor, volcano, plague and global warming? This is just the first time he’s ever had the same one twice.” Legolas had spent more time around Aragorn than the hobbits had and had seen most of his rampaging paranoia first hand.
“No it’s not, he was sure Ragnarok was coming round twice.”
“But those were two very cold winters.”
“And he did spend them snowed in a longhouse with Arwen. Three months shut in a house with her and I’d think Armageddon was upon us. Or at least I’d wish for it.”
“Ragnarok?” Pippin had reverted to his default setting of confusion.
“The Viking end of the world? When the wolf eats the sun? You hung around with the Vikings for a couple of centuries, you said the raping and pillaging bits were the some of the most fun you’ve had in your life.”
“Well, that wasn’t what they called themselves, but you must remember the big hairy guys with axes who came from Scandinavia?”
“Weren’t they the Macedonians?”
“No, the Macedonians were the big, hairy guys with the huge long spears who came from Greece.”
“Ah, right. Hey, Merry, you remember Wee Alex, don’t you?”
“You shouldn’t refer to an ancient king who ruled a significant part of the known world as ‘Wee Alex’.”
“Yeah, I remember Wee Alex, he was sort of funny about getting people to bow to him.”
“Wis Wee Alex their king? Ah didnae know that.”
“Why do you think the army followed him? And why he lived in palaces?”
“Well, as far as ah could tell the army followed him because he wis shaggin’ most of them and most of the time he lived in tents.”
“We burned down a palace once, that was a great night, that was.”
“We’ve got to get back to the point. We have to stop him.”
“How?” asked Frodo.
“Why?” asked Merry.
“What?” asked Pippin.
That afternoon work continued on the cupboard under the stairs and Legolas was really beginning to regret suggesting that Aragorn did something useful with the space. He’d only meant for Aragorn to turn it into another bathroom or put up some shelves.
“I’m sure the cupboard was supposed to be bigger than this. I checked the plans before I started to make sure we would all fit. And the structural integrity was good enough for the reinforcements.” Aragorn leaned heavily on the back wall of the cupboard.
Then it echoed again.
Aragorn might not have been the brightest monarch Gondor and Arnor had ever had, but his ranger-sense was telling him that something wasn’t quite right. He tried knocking on the wall again. It was definitely hollow. And walls weren’t supposed to knock back, were they? Or were they? No, he was thinking of something else entirely. He did what any butch man in his situation would do. He whacked his claw hammer at the wall, satisfied when it went through. He then yanked at it and fell backwards as the whole back wall came out.
The whole Fellowship, this being a very dull Sunday, were quickly gathered as Aragorn fell backwards out of the cupboard with suitable drama and swearing.
“Buggering bastard bollocks!”
The hobbits disappointed that Aragorn had not given himself any comedy injuries peered into the cupboard nosily.
“Here, that’s not Joanna Lumley is it?”
“Look, just because someone is tied up in our understairs cupboard doesn’t mean they are Joanna Lumley. She doesn’t have a beard.”
“She could have just stopped shaving.”
Frodo intervened. “Sam, I had these really long c-conversations with my psychologist about what’s r-real and what’s not, so could you, umm, tell me, ummm…”
“Yes, Frodo, there is a strange bearded man, who’s not Gimli, Gandalf or Aragorn, tied up in the cupboard.”
“Oh, good.” Then Frodo collected himself and went back into head of the household mode. “PIPPIN! GANDALF! What have you done?”
The figure, in a tattered suit, tried to cower further back into the recesses of the cupboard, shielding his eyes from the unaccustomed light.
Legolas looked into the cupboard. “It’s rather unusual for them to kidnap a man. Women, yes, Sarah Michelle Gellar especially, but not men. And he does seem really rather familiar.”
There was an approaching cackle. Gandalf appeared, leering in his usual way. “Hobbits, nosey creatures, poking about where they shouldn’t.”
“Actually, it was Aragorn, and who discovered him is not the point. Who is he and what is he doing in the cupboard?”
Gandalf lurched towards the cupboard and stuck his head round the door. “Here boy! Good dog!”
The figure shuffled forwards, still bound. It knelt at Gandalf’s feet, who patted it on the head. “Good dog. Have a doggy treat.” The man was given a distressed bacon sandwich, which he ate with apparent relish.
The penny dropped with Legolas. “Oh, good grief. You’re keeping Jeremy Paxman as a *pet*? Had they run out of Rottweilers?”
“Good Paxman, down boy.” Gandalf reacted as he usually did to Legolas’ difficult questions, by pretending to be deaf.
“House meeting. Kitchen. Now.”
The House Meeting convened, with Exhibit A on the kitchen table gnawing on a chicken leg. Frodo retrieved the minutes book from the kitchen drawer.
“Shall we skip the apologies and confirming the minutes of the last meeting?”
“No, look, I object to the representation of my behaviour at the pub on Saturday night as ‘illegal and immoral’. It was merely illegal.”
“Pippin, overruled.” Legolas was chairelf, and used to this type of bickering. “In that case I move that we go on to Item 3 on the Agenda, proposed by Frodo, ‘What the hell are we going to do with Jeremy Paxman?’”
There was a slight twitch from Jeremy, probably only reacting to the sound of his own name.
Aragorn stood up. “Chairelf, I propose that we turn both the Paxman and Gandalf in to the police.”
Legolas was unconvinced. “But surely this will put suspicion on us.”
This was greeted by murmurs from round the table, and a smug expression from Gandalf. There followed a few minutes of suggestions of varying from “kill him and bury the body”, “send him to a plastic surgeon and give him a plane ticket to Brazil”, to “get a Paxman flap and a bowl with his name on it”.
Then suddenly an alarm went off. They all leapt up.
“Is that the Buffy alarm?”
There was the sound of running feet towards the sitting room. Legolas took his place on the sofa and pointedly said “meeting adjourned.”
Then the room was silent apart from some appreciative murmurs from the hobbits and from Gandalf Heavy Breathing No. 16(a) “Woman, who, while having large knockers, is not particularly attractive, but is wearing skin tight catsuit and has pointy ears” (this to distinguish it from No.16, which was broadly the same but substituting ‘funny computery stuff on face’ for ‘pointy ears’).
In the kitchen Paxman found himself alone. The time in the cupboard and with Gandalf had basically destroyed his mind and his sanity, but there was still one conscious thought left – and that was ‘freedom’.
The next morning Legolas was somewhat confused. The escape of the Paxman had gone largely unremarked on, except for Gandalf’s demands that they go out and look for him, calling his name and rattling his food bowl, which was ignored. Legolas’ confusion was focused on Aragorn.
“Why are you not in your work clothes?”
Aragorn looked shifty. “It’s casual Monday.”
“The forestry commission. Casual Monday. Aragorn, for some strange reason I don’t believe you.”
Gimli appeared, nodding to everyone and giving a friendly “och” to Legolas.
Legolas narrowed his eyes. Something was going on. “Aragorn. Am I going to have to hurt you, or are you just going to tell me what you’re planning?”
Frodo appeared with a pan full of breakfast. “He’s digging a fallout shelter in the back garden. I found all the plans in his sock drawer when I was putting the clean ones away.” Frodo was in a worryingly cheery mood, which generally meant they were in line for another Incident. He continued brightly, “I was very impressed at how you managed to get all that stuff into the garage while Legolas was reading the paper, and how you’ve planned to dig it in the lawn so it’s so handy for the house.”
This got Sam’s attention. “Where did you say you were digging this?”
Aragorn looked into his bowl of salted porridge and mumbled, “Inthemiddleofthelawn.”
Sam was getting angry. This was quite unusual, but dangerous nonetheless. “I’m sorry Aragorn, I didn’t quite hear you. Where did you say again?”
Aragorn sprang into King of Gondor mode. “I am digging it in the middle of the lawn. Yes, it will mean sacrifice. But this country was built upon sacrifice! Did Wellington stop to think of the quality of the lawns at Waterloo? Did we hesitate because of the agricultural impact on Pelennor fields? No! We think first of the safety of our comrades! I am protecting this Fellowship against the threat of nuclear war! Cry God for Gondor, Merry and me!”
This prompted a confused “what?” from the hobbit in question, who wasn’t at his best before his second cup of coffee and third fry up in the morning.
Legolas sighed. “Aragorn. There is one, small, tiny, minor point that you’ve neglected to take into account.”
“We are all immortal. And probably immune to violent irradiated death after what happened between us and the Valar. So building a fallout shelter, which incidentally is about as much use as a soap herring in the actual event of nuclear war, is rather pointless.”
Unfortunately this argument did not have the desired effect. Gimli piped up “Och, Aragorn, I told you that the earth shelter was a daft idea. We should be going with concrete.”
Aragorn’s eyes lit up. “Yes! Concrete! Lead-lined concrete! Get me the Yellow Pages!” He leapt from the table, a man with a mission.
Legolas turned to Gimli. “Why are you getting involved?”
“Och, he’s going to build it anyway. I might as well make sure it doesnae collapse on him.”
Aragorn returned with the Yellow Pages. “How odd. There doesn’t seem to be anyone listed under “fallout shelters”, or “lead-lined concrete suppliers”.”
That evening, a few doors down from the Fellowship house, a doorbell was rung. Mrs. Pettifer opened the door to reveal two short men, wearing t-shirts with a large mushroom cloud printed on them, and what appeared to be world war two tin helmets with NPC badges stuck on with sellotape.
“Hello madam, we are your local Nuclear Protection Committee.” The man gestured to his helmet. “Have your family made plans for what you will do when World War Three happens?”
Pippin wedged his foot into the door. “Well, can you spare some time for us to talk to you? It could mean the difference between a long lingering death and survival in a terrible semi-human form.”
The woman froze like a rabbit in the headlights, until natural instincts of politeness crept in. “You’d, ummm, better come in. I’ll get the kettle on.”
Merry and Pippin got themselves comfy on the sofa. They had with them large quantities of photocopied ‘Protect & Survive’ leaflets from the 1970s, augmented with pictures taken from movies with titles like ‘Night of the Evil Zombies IV’ and ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’. Merry and Pippin didn’t have an ounce of public spirit in them (unless you are going to count that vodka they swiped from the off-licence); they had seen an opportunity to be let into other people’s houses and cause trouble and had seized it.
The woman returned, bearing tea and followed by two suspicious looking children. The hobbits took their tea graciously.
“So, madam, have you considered what impact nuclear war would have on your two lovely children?”
“No, no, I haven’t.”
“Well, let me first start by telling you about the explosion itself. Do you know the difference between an air burst and a ground burst?”
The woman shook her head. Merry and Pippin began their explanation of what happens after a nuclear blast. Two sentences in she sent the children out to the garden. Two minutes in she was looking very pale indeed.
“And are you aware of how to recognise the symptoms of radiation sickness?”
Three minutes later Mrs. Pettifer was being copiously sick in the kitchen sink. Merry and Pippin had put a great deal of effort into this and were not being disappointed with the results. This had broken their record from the previous house, where it had taken over ten minutes to make them throw up.
Legolas came home from work that evening to see Frodo apparently attempting to communicate with a large hole in the back lawn.
“Would you like a cup of tea?”
Legolas was about to go and phone the psychiatric nurse when the hole answered.
“I said TEA! Would you like some?”
“Milk and sugar?”
Legolas decided to introduce some sanity into the conversation. “Why don’t you come out?”
“Come out of the hole!”
“I think it might just be deep enough. And it probably wouldn’t be a good idea for Frodo to lower your tea in on a piece of string – someone might get burned.”
“It worked the last time.” There was a sound of clinking china. “Do you want the cups back?”
Legolas put on his primary school teacher voice. “Aragorn son of Arathorn you will get yourself out of that hole this minute or there will be Trouble.”
Frodo found himself standing to attention at the mere sound of command in the voice. There was a brief silence from the hole.
“Yes, Legolas. Could you pass down the ladder?”
“The ladder on the other side of the hole to where you’re standing.”
“All there is on that side is a mound of earth.”
“Oh. Oh dear.”
Some time, swearing, climbing and tea later Legolas, Frodo and two mud covered beings claiming to be Gimli and Aragorn were sat beside the hole. Sam had briefly appeared, and attempted to kill Aragorn for the damage he’d done to the lawn. However, Aragorn was so muddy he couldn’t get a proper grip round his neck, so he’d gone off to brood and plot elsewhere. Gandalf had dragged himself out to cast aspersions about the whole project.
“I know what will happen. You’re delving too greedily and too deep; you’ll awake Things from the deep places.”
Legolas interrupted before Gandalf got going and set Frodo off on the road to another Incident. “Gandalf, I hardly think you can awake a Balrog from 20 ft down in a suburban back garden.”
“That’s just what Durin said when he stared with the mines of Khazad-dum!”
There was a pause as they all tried to absorb this statement.
“Och, you don’t mine mithril in a back garden. It’s no big enough.”
“I stand by my statement. There will be orcs before you know it!”
“No, that will just be the neighbours, banging on the door to be let in BECAUSE THEY HAVEN’T MADE PROPER PROVISIONS!” This final comment was shouted over the fences at the neighbours, since Aragorn felt that everyone should be as prepared as he was.
“The orcs will be there too, wanting let in. You mark my words, orcs!”
Legolas realised that Frodo had begun to burrow into his side, and while not gibbering was most definitely agitated. It was time to steer the conversation away from orcs. “Look, we are immortal. We’ve all survived a long time in very violent environments without dying. The probability is that we can’t be killed by fallout, or radiation sickness, so this shelter is totally pointless.”
“Better safe than sorry.”
“But even if you’re right, how long do we stay down there? Civilisation will be ruined, ambient radiation would be increased, water supplies polluted…”
Legolas paused. “Two weeks. All the effects of nuclear holocaust will have dissipated in two weeks. Where exactly are you getting your information from Aragorn?”
“Protect and Survive!” Aragorn handed him a disheveled mud splattered leaflet.
Legolas took it with distaste and read it. It seemed familiar, and looked dated, but he had probably ignored it the first time round, since he was immortal. His incredulity grew. “Aragorn, this same leaflet advocates lying on the ground or in a ditch to avoid the effects of nuclear heat and blast. These people are quite possibly telling some tiny little fibs, to make people think they can do something about nuclear war when they can’t.”
“The government would never lie to us!”
“Aragorn, you’ve been the government, you’ve been several governments in fact. I’ve heard you lie. And not just little ‘no new taxation’ lies, but big, whopping great lies. Remember the drains in Minas Tirith?”
Frodo made a face. “Urrgh, please, I don’t want to think about that. I only lived in the third circle, I don’t even want to know about what went on in the seventh.”
Aragorn ignored this. “But surely governments have learned?”
“You’d had over 5000 years of governmental experience when you gave your little briefing in London in 1347.”
“I don’t remember.”
“Not a lot of people did. It was called “Why we have nothing to fear from the Black Death”, and 90% of the audience were dead within two years.”
Aragorn looked uncomfortable. “But even so, it will offer some protection when we’re done. Better than nothing?” Aragorn looked hopeful.
Legolas gave in. Logic was a foreign concept to Aragorn. But then again, so were ‘hairbrush’ and ‘shaving’. There were limits though. “How are we all expected to get in there?”
“I did the calculations. There should be plenty of room.”
“Standing on each others heads?” Legolas paused. “Aragorn – are you having that problem distinguishing between feet and inches again?”
“Och, I told ye it was too small, but you wouldn’t listen.”
“I’m an elderly wizard. I demand there be enough room for me, my hat, my chair and my, ahem, reading material.”
Frodo’s practical sense came in as well. “And you know how Merry and Pippin eat more in a stressful situation. We’re going to need an awful lot of food down there. An awful lot.”
A week after the completion of the shelter Aragorn awoke with the sounds of air raid sirens ringing in his ears. He took a moment to orient himself. No, these sirens were real. This was it. He had been proved right. He could show how good he was in times of national crisis.
It took almost another ten seconds for Aragorn to remember to stop screaming.
“War! War! They’ve dropped the bomb! Everyone into the air-raid shelter!” He ran up and down the corridor, banging on doors, trying to wake everyone else up. “Take only what we can’t leave to be destroyed in the blast!”
Merry and Pippin went for the enormously well-endowed fertility statue.
“On second thoughts, take only what you need to survive.”
The entire Fellowship was in the shelter within 3 minutes and 52 seconds. They had even managed to fit in some household essentials: Gandalf’s chair, a selection of books to suit all of their tastes, camp beds, cooking utensils and, due to an unexplained law of physics observed whenever a group of people are confined in a small space, Scrabble, Monopoly and a jigsaw with ten pieces missing. Clothes and food had been moved in pre-emptively by Aragorn a few days previously, which solved the mystery of what had happened to most of everyone’s underwear.
When the rest of the street heard the distant sound of air-raid sirens they acted according to the advice in Merry and Pippin’s booklets. Well, eventually they did, after they’d been round to the Fellowship house to see if there was any room left in their fallout shelter, only to discover that Aragorn, in anticipation of this very moment, had hidden the entrance.
They rushed back to their own houses and dived into the cupboards, to spend their last few minutes, or their last few minutes of being recognisably human, in relative peace, making one last attempt at pretending they’d lead happy lives. Little dramas unfolded up and down the street.
“Martin, I just want to tell you that even after ten years of marriage, that I still love you.”
“Daphne, I think you should know, I’ve been meaning to tell you this for some time now… I’m gay.”
“What? You decide to tell me this now. You could have let me die thinking that our marriage hadn’t been a complete waste of time. But noooo, you decide that you have to get things off your chest.”
“But that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’ve only got two and a half minutes to live, isn’t it?”
“You’re not supposed to tell people things that’ll upset them. You could have lied! I lied! I’ve been shagging my boss for over a year now, but I was prepared to let you think that I loved you.”
“Oh, um sorry.”
“Now we’re going to spend what time we have left in awkward silence.”
And next door…
“Where’s the baby?”
“We haven’t got a baby!”
“Oh shit, I’m in the wrong house.”
And next door to that…
“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when…”
“If you don’t stop singing bloody Vera Lynn then you’ll meet your end two minutes earlier than you were supposed to at the end of this frying pan!”
And in the next house along…
“Dear God, Buddah, Allah, Jehovah… can anyone remember any of the Hindu ones?”
“No, I think that’s a festival. Dear God, Buddah, Allah, Jehovah and whoever we’re supposed to worship at Diwali -”
“We could try for some of the Pagan ones…”
“Shut up, Sean. We may have never set foot in any house of religion – except for at our Sheila’s wedding and we can’t even remember which one it was – but we’re not bad people, definitely a lot better than most of the people in this street and we would like to be considered for any good afterlifes that there might be space left in. Thank you for your time and consideration.”
And at No. 27
“I think we must have read the leaflet wrong, there’s no way we’re going to get all these windows bricked up in the next two minutes.”
Down in the Fellowship bunker Frodo was trying to be terribly British and stiff upper lipped to stop himself from having an Incident, which meant that in the last half hour he’d made about five cups of tea per person.
Sam looked at Merry and Pippin and how much tea they’d consumed and came to the logical end result. “Aragorn… you know when you built the shelter? You did remember to put in facilities, didn’t you?”
“He’s talking about a lavatory, Aragorn.” Supplied Legolas. “We can’t exactly go out and pee in the garden, because as much good as it will do for the flowers, they aren’t there any more.”
“Och, see that wooden door over there with the half-moon shape cut into it? It’s in there. He forgot all about it, so I built one, and it doesn’t use up any of our water supply to flush it…” Gimli continued a with a long and detailed explanation of how the new toilet worked, why Gimli wanted to build one into the house they would have to build when they got out and why it had been inspired by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Legolas gave him the verbal equivalent of a pat on the head and left him to it.
Four hours later, Frodo had reduced the amount of tea being made to a more sensible level, although the Fellowship had given Gimli’s revolutionary toilet design a thorough test. They settled down to play what should have been a nice, friendly game of Scrabble. But then again, they were playing it with Merry and Pippin.
“I really don’t think that’s a word.”
“Of course it’s a word. It’s a complex gynaecological problem.”
“How on earth do you know that? And anyway, it’s spelt with a ‘v’.”
Legolas looked at the words on the board and twitched. He was supposed to spend the next two weeks in here?
He thought about a post-nuclear landscape. He thought of radiation sickness the way Merry and Pippin described it. He even thought about his hair falling out. Then he thought about watching his life slip away as he spent the next fortnight trapped in a fallout shelter with the rest of the Fellowship. He was taking his chances outside.
Legolas got up and strode towards the door. “I’m going out. I will be some time.”
Frodo looked distraught. “Legolas, you can’t go out there! I’m not going to let you die.” Frodo wrapped his arms and legs around Legolas’ knees. Legolas kicked him away.
“Goodbye, I’d like you all to know that you’ve done more than anyone else to completely ruin my life. And yes, I’m including my mother in this, Gandalf.” With that, Legolas made his dramatic exit from the bunker and perhaps the stage of life.
As the door slammed shut there was a cry of “If you go out you can’t come back in again!” from Aragorn.
Frodo was stood pointing at the door, occasionally whimpering “gone…”.
Sam was about to offer comfort when Aragorn slapped Frodo across the back in a manly fashion and barked “No point in pining. He’s gone, get used to it. It’s a cruel world after the bomb’s dropped.” Aragorn turned his attention to the rest of the Fellowship as Sam tired to comfort the trembling Frodo. “Now, the majority of civilisation will have been destroyed, but there may be pockets of survival. We have to listen to Radio 4 to find out what to do.”
Aragorn reached for the radio. Unfortunately, as he reached to turn it on he knocked over a can of Tennents that miraculously hadn’t been there a moment before. The lager poured into the radio, which made some horrible crackling noises and then went dead.
“Oh. Oh dear.” Aragorn brightened again. “But it doesn’t matter, we have all the leaflets, and as soon as the immediate danger has passed we can go out and loot a new radio.”
There was uncomfortable silence for a while.
Then, the voice of conscience came from an unusual source. Merry looked uncomfortable, then said, “ummmmm. We have known Legolas for like thousands of years. Don’t you think we should do something to mourn his horrible, lingering death?”
The others had the decency to look ashamed, apart from Frodo who hadn’t stopped looking distraught yet.
“We could sing a lament. He’s an elf, he’d like that.”
Sam and Frodo looked at each other. They knew what Legolas thought about everyone else’s singing. He had used the phrases “like cats being run over with a steamroller” and “like a peacock being castrated with a rusty knife” to describe their singing. But, since he was dead, the only thing he could do was turn in his grave. And, since he didn’t have a grave, if he did start turning he might roll so far that they wouldn’t have to step over his corpse when they left the shelter.
Aragorn stood up, solemnly. “Let us sing.”
“See that elf, watch that scene, digging the dancing queen…”
“GANDALF! That is not what he would have wanted.”
After going out the door Legolas paused. There was still a ladder between him and the outside world, and he truly did not know what he would find out there. He briefly wondered if it was possible to commit suicide by shooting yourself with your own longbow, but then realised that he’d left the longbow in the house.
Legolas steeled himself and took a deep breath as he prepared to open the final hatch. He stepped out. And stopped.
Had this been a film the ‘Morning’ music from ‘Peer Gynt’ would be playing. Flowers were blooming. Birds were singing. Dawn was breaking, and there was the sound of a milk float. Legolas was suddenly filled with joy – there had been no bomb! Legolas half turned to go back and tell the others, then stopped. He had heard the air raid sirens. He should find out what was going on first.
He let himself back into the house, and turned the stereo in the kitchen on. The sound of air raid sirens came out. He paused. Why on earth was Radio 4 playing air raid sirens? If there was a war on, surely people had got the message by now? The he looked at the stereo again. It was set to ‘tape’. Now filled with a growing sense of suspicion Legolas pressed eject, and was presented with a tape bearing the label “BBC Sound Effects. Volume 6: War”. Legolas knew who was behind this. Only Gandalf had the time, intelligence, cunning and deep down malice to do this.
Legolas briefly flicked on Radio 4, just to make sure life was as normal, then set off down the garden. Half way down he stopped. Aragorn had said they would need to be down there for two weeks. Which meant, with any luck, a whole two weeks with no Merry, Pippin or Gandalf. Legolas returned to the house, thinking of his Hammond organ.
Diary of Aragorn, son of Arathorn, last surviving Man of Gondor, last surviving human (probably, I mean there might be some people ok in the desert, or the rainforests. You never know.)
We are all slowly adapting to life in the bunker and the loss of Legolas. The terrible deaths of thousands weigh heavily on our minds, but somehow we soldier on.
Today we played Monopoly. Merry, Pippin and Gandalf all cheated and all had title deeds to Mayfair and Park Lane. Gimli won whilst they were arguing among themselves.
In other news, Frodo and Sam decided to take their chances with the fatal radiation outside. We knew that they were both going to their deaths, and we probably should have tried to dissuade them, but I had thrown a double and got an extra go and wasn’t paying attention. We are assured that it was the act of two brave hobbits, or at least one brave hobbit and one disturbed hobbit.
Merry and Pippin have bagsied their food rations.
Frodo and Sam paused at the foot of the ladder leading to the outside world.
Frodo put his hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Now all is over. I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.”
Sam patted Frodo’s hand. “That was really very moving the first time you said it, but you’ve said it that many times it doesn’t have the impact any more.”
“Oh. Um, how about ‘it’s been nice knowing you’?”
“Hmm. Cliched, but the sentiment’s there. It’s been nice knowing you too, Frodo.”
They hugged, and then started to climb the ladder. Sam was first out, and Frodo called up to him “How far did Legolas get?”
“Quite a long way. He’s not here.”
“You mean there’s hope?”
“I think you’d better come and look for yourself.”
Frodo emerged into the open air. “Oh. Oh well. Do you think we’ve died very fast and this is heaven?”
“Not unless heaven includes him from down the road practising the tuba very badly in the back garden.”
“No, don’t see the Sackville-Bagginses anywhere. I think there may not have been nuclear war.”
Frodo looked contemplative for a moment, then shrugged. “What do you want for breakfast? Everything in the fridge should be alright.”
“Aren’t we going to tell them?”
“Sam, if there’s been no war the only people in the house will be you, me and Legolas.”
They found Legolas in the kitchen. He saw them and paused. “None of the others have followed you?”
“No, just us. The rest of them think we’re dead.”
“Oh, that’s good. I phoned in sick for you yesterday Sam, told them you had the flu, so best take today off and go in tomorrow looking a bit rough.”
Frodo looked concerned. “You will do that for Aragorn and Gimli as well? You know how bad Aragorn is a job interviews, we’ve got to keep his job.”
“Yes, don’t worry, I’ve told their bosses they’ve got the flu as well. I don’t want a repeat of that time when he listed the positive points he could bring to the job as ‘experience ruling large kingdom and orc slaying’.”
Frodo relaxed. Then he looked around the room. “Look at the state of this place! We must have knocked half the things off when we left, and I don’t know how this much dust can accumulate in this short time.” Frodo had slipped easily back into being his old self again.
“I’d better be seeing to the garden. It’s like it’s been trampled by dozens of people. Almost as if they were looking for something.”
Something struck Frodo, “what about Merry and Pippin?”
“What about them?”
“You haven’t phoned in sick for them too, have you?”
“No. They get through enough jobs as it is. It was too much effort to dial the number and lie.”
The two weeks had passed slowly but surely down in the shelter. It was now time to face the outside world, and Aragorn was giving them all a pep talk.
“Now, what we will find out there will most likely be horrific. This is not least because it will include the bodies of three of our closest friends lying dead within feet of the shelter. Indeed, there may even be enough of them left for us to see the expressions of agonised terror from their last, pain filled moments. Although, should there have arisen, as is possible, a race of mutant super-cockroaches their bodies will have been eaten, and we will need to be on our guard, as the cockroaches by now will have eaten most of the corpses in this area. Our first objective is to find supplies of food and water, and, if there are cockroaches, an easily defensible position and weapons. Everyone clear on this?”
The rest of them had switched off after the cockroaches, since ‘a race of mutant super-cockroaches will have taken over by the time we come out, you mark my words’ had comprised about half of what Aragorn had said since the fourth day. They all murmured in agreement after he had stopped talking though. The others knew mutant cockroaches was a daft idea; they were more worried about the seven foot tall intelligent homicidal rats. Well, Gandalf as the possessor of the BBC soundtrack tape and fermenter of this whole incident had really rather enjoyed the two weeks down here. It was like ‘Big Brother’, only with so much more despair and suffering.
There was something on Merry’s mind. “We should see if there’s any women about.”
“Well, we need to repopulate the planet. We’ll be like, the founders of a new race of… of… short deformed creatures! All we need are some women who aren’t too mutated.”
“Yeah, and we’ll be like the best guys on the planet, with no radiation deformations!”
Only Merry and Pippin could see a nuclear holocaust as a chance to get laid.
Aragorn handed out the swords, and went first up the ladder. He stuck his head out.
“Better come up carefully. I don’t see any corpses, so I was probably right about the super-cockroaches.”
He came out and crouched, senses alert to danger.
The others blinked in the unaccustomed sunlight as they emerged. Then they looked confused.
“Och, Aragorn, there’s an awful lot of houses left standing.”
“Looting! Looting!” Merry and Pippin jumped up and down.
Aragorn looked at them sternly.
“Look, they’d have wanted us to have it. Really.”
Gimli was still looking puzzled. “I can hear cars. And people.”
Aragorn ignored him. “Perhaps the other three tried to take shelter in the house. We should at least look for the corpses to give them a proper burial.”
They all followed them into the house. No corpses in the kitchen, which was looking very clean for having been deserted for a fortnight. No fallout dust or anything.
“That sounds like the hoover in the sitting room.” They went to the source of the noise.
“Eeeek!” Frodo screamed back.
“Frodo! How many times have we told you, at least wear boxers to do the cleaning.” Then Aragorn’s brain caught up with him. “Why aren’t you dead?”
“Oh, um, there was no nuclear war, Gandalf set you all up. And we, um, didn’t tell you because, ummmm, we, um couldn’t find the door again. It’s that well hidden.”
Aragorn turned to wax wrathful at Gandalf, but Gandalf had disappeared.
“And tonight, on ‘Newsnight’, we report on the reappearance of BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman. Paxman, who had been missing for over three weeks, was found wandering the streets in a distressed state. He disappeared from a busy BBC studio, but no witnesses saw him leave and he has not yet been able to make any coherent statement about his ordeal. Was this a kidnapping or a breakdown?”