As night slowly falls, and the bright pinks and oranges of the sunset streak across the sky, giving way to a pleasantly gentle drizzle, I walk over to my favorite reading corner to settle down with a good book. I scan my shelves, wondering what to pick. Although I want to start something new, my attention is captivated by a beloved treasure -- The Hobbit. I reach for it. Then my eyes catch the other volumes next to it. The Lord of the Rings, of course. My mind is suddenly flooded by images from these books. I see Bilbo finding the magic ring, and hear Smaug's roar of rage, as he realizes that his long-hoarded treasure is gone. I see Frodo at Bilbo's 'eleventy-first' birthday party, toasting his adventurous uncle along with all their neighboring hobbits. And I see Gollum, slinking along, muttering about his "precious"...
Unbeknownst to all, the War of the Ring has begun...
A long, dramatic sigh suddenly reaches my ears, as well as a rustling sound -- of cloth against cloth. I quickly glance up, startled. After all, I had thought I was alone here in my cozy little book corner...
He's already made himself quite comfortable in one of the plush chairs of the room, and is, of course, quite at ease surrounded by books.
"Good evening to you," he says amiably, as he nods pleasantly. Then he takes a puff on his long, old-fashioned pipe.
I can only gasp, because, sitting before me, with his unmistakable aura of university professor, is the creator of Frodo, Bilbo, and all the other unforgettable characters of Middle-Earth. My heart begins to thump madly.
Yes, indeed -- John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.
"Ah....yes, gggood eve-evening," I stutter, as my hands begin to shake. Not too noticeably, I'm hoping.
He calmly takes a puff on his pipe. How like a hobbit he is himself, I think.
"Quite so," he replies, with a broad grin, as well as a wink.
Oh, no. He can actually hear what I'm thinking...
"Every single thought," he placidly concurs, taking another long puff.
"But...." I gulp. "Where did you come from? How did you get in here?" You're....you're......" Words fail me.
"Dead? Deceased? Crossed over? My dear girl, I know I am."
"Ah, you see, you've opened one of my works. Surely you're aware that authors live on through their books."
"Of course, but not literally!" I manage to sputter.
He laughs quite jovially at that. "What a nice pun, my dear. Yes, you might say that my presence here is quite the product of your imagination, and yet, I'm no less really here for that."
"But....how is it that we're actually carrying on a conversation?"
"Well, you see, I'm not quite sure about that myself, but I do have a theory, which I have hastily concocted right this very minute."
Since I'm totally flabbergasted, all I can say is, "What...what is it?"
"Well, your obsessive admiration of my work has finally made it possible for my presence to become....ah, corporeal, and you can actually perceive me with your physical senses. Not really that far-fetched, considering that I'm peering over your shoulder every time you traipse off into Middle-Earth."
I am totally speechless.
Would you rather converse mentally? I hear the words clearly in my mind.
"Oh, no, that's all right! Speech is just fine with me!"
"Ah, then," he pleasantly replies, taking yet another of his long puffs.
A rather long silence ensues, during which I can't help but stare at him. He seems solid enough. I certainly can't see through him. But of course, he went over to the other side quite a few years ago...and I was so disappointed that I never got to meet him, too.
"Well, your wish has now been granted," he suddenly remarks, and I jump. He has read my mind yet again!
"I...must confess that I feel uncomfortable...when you...do that," I say, my heart thumping again.
He shrugs. "I will stop, if you wish. But you know, now's your chance. You can ask me anything you're dying to know. Oh, do excuse me -- bad choice of words. Would you like to know more about Frodo? Or perhaps Aragorn? He certainly seems to be very popular with the ladies."
I am again at a loss for words. I suddenly become aware that night has already stolen over the outside world, and the gentle drizzle has turned into a soft rain.
"Well?" he prompts, looking at me quizzically.
"Tell me about The Inklings!" I finally blurt out. I can feel my face start to get red. Would my question bring up feelings of nostalgia for his earthly existence?
"Yes, but I really have no qualms about discussing my earthly life," he replies. Apparently he has already forgotten my request that he stop reading my mind.
"Well, this will take quite a while, you know. I think I may have prolonged my visit. We ghosts do have a curfew, if you must know."
I can't help but let out a groan. "Ghosts have curfews? But it's not even midnight yet!"
"I'm so sorry my dear, but I really must go....." Even as he speaks, he begins to become translucent.
"No, don't go yet! You haven't told me anything about The Inklings!"
"We will meet again the next time your imagination decides to play tricks on you, here, in your little reading corner. As you Yanks say, 'same time, same station'!"
"But...but...." I manage to sputter.
He completely disappears. I am left all alone, in the coziness of my little reading corner, the lamp next to my comfortable chair shining brightly, throwing dark shadows across the rows and rows of books. The rain is gently pattering on the windowpanes.
Could I have imagined it all? Sighing, I settle into my chair, once more opening the pages of The Hobbit.