Hmm... thought Crackers, what's a good one? She stared down at the sheet of notebook paper covered in whimsically-written Fëanorian quotes. Oh, yes! How could I forget? White hot! She quickly added the description of Maedhros to her ballpoint-pen masterpiece and began wracking her brain for one last quote in order to fill the page.
Meanwhile, in the front of the room, her instructor continued to drone on about something relating to molecular bonding that, at any rate, was completely irrelevant to the daily life of our distracted Tolkien nerd, however attentive she usually was in class.
"Now, a carbon atom can form, as you know-" The instructor was suddenly interrupted by the following strange intercom buzz-in, which immediately recalled the full attention of Crackers to her surroundings: "May I have CrackinAndProudOfIt to the main office, please?"
"Excuse me?" said the instructor, thoroughly puzzled. She had no student that she knew by that strange name, but the thing that confused her the most was the voice over the speakers. Instead of the ever-weary receptionist's bored monotone, it was a man's, and what's more, he had a British accent.
"May I have CrackinAndProudOfIt to the main office at once?" the man repeated. "She knows who she is, and she needs to come down immediately."
"Louisa, is this some sort of practical joke?" The instructor's tone was now frustrated; she was frustrated! Apparently, the receptionist had run out of office work and was amusing herself by prank-calling unsuspecting classes!
"Most certainly not!" responded the voice, "Now, Crackers, do come to the office! Stop causing this poor woman trouble!"
As soon as Crackers had heard her PenName called, her heart had began to pound. No one knew her FF name here, did they? How was this possible? And who was this British guy? Most importantly, why did he want to see her? Exciting things like this never happened to Crackers! She was more than content to just quietly blend into the woodwork most of the time; she didn't like attention, and she knew that what her curiosity was now obligating her to do would get her more of it than she had gotten in a long time, but she did it anyway. She rose from her seat, pushed in the chair, and made for the door from her spot in the back.
Every head in the room turned to stare at her; to the instructor's questioning look, she answered, "It's me. It's-it's-it's just a username on a website I get on." She ended quietly, feeling her face heat up before she turned and bolted out of the class and into the empty hallway.
Her purple tennis shoes clicked conspicuously on the scuffed tile floor as she made her way to the main office. A knot barely had time to form in her stomach before she found herself standing outside the white door, poised to turn the silver handle and enter. She rotated it to the left, staring at it in her bony hand before stepping into the office.
She looked up to see the source of the British voice; her jaw dropped, and she let the door slam shut behind her. Before the astonished fanfic writer stood a white-haired man in a brown tweed overcoat with a brown button-up vest, white shirt, and tie that nearly matched his overcoat, underneath. In his hand was an unlit tobacco pipe. Crackers was struck dumb(er than usual).
"CrackinAndProudOfIt, I presume?" Sure enough, his voice was that that had called her to the office, and seeing his attire, Crackers was not surprised. It still sent chills down her spine, though: Here was her hero, apparently risen from the dead, and he had just looked her in the eye and spoken to her.
She nodded silently, eyes wide, and shut her gaping mouth as a barrage of fearful thoughts bombarded her mind. Risen from the dead? She was losing it and seeing ghosts. Or maybe she wasn't losing it, and this was really a ghost, or worse, a demon! She made up her mind to speak, though; she felt she had to, if she wanted any hope of figuring this mess out.
Summoning up all of her courage- there wasn't much- she squeaked, "P-p-p-p, I mean, M-m-m-m-Mister T-tolkien?" She'd remembered almost too late his preferred form of address, as written in one of his letters.
The Great Professor chuckled warmly, a smile spreading across his features. "Well, my girl, I don't suppose you were expecting to see me here today- or ever, for that matter." He chuckled again. "Come, girl, let's take a walk while I tell you about the reason behind this visit: wish-granting. Louisa," He raised his voice to call the receptionist, "you may come off your break now."
Tolkien placed a shockingly substantial (for what could possibly be a ghost) hand on Crackers' shoulder and guided her out the door. The pair turned left and began to walk up and down a wide, high-ceilinged hallway whose walls were lined with pictures of smiling alumni. Crackers broke the silence by stammering, "W-wish granting, s-sir?"
"Yes, girl, wish-granting," answered the Professor, "For all of my readers who have wished many times to meet my characters, I have, with some...help, developed a program that will enable them to do so, using- what do you call them?- oh, yes, plushies, life-sized plushies. You, CrackinAndProudOfIt, have been selected to become a participant."
Crackers was stunned. She was now confident that this had to be some sort of hallucination. It just had to be; it defied all logic! Deep inside, though, she had that sinking feeling that told her it was real.
"M-me, sir?" she replied, "I'm honoured! With all due respect, though, how will I meet the characters by simply having large plush toys of them?"
"Did I ever say they were ordinary toys?" A twinkle appeared in his eyes, but Tolkien soon grew grave once more. He produced from somewhere inside his overcoat a white envelope, sealed with his publishing symbol but otherwise unadorned. "Here," he said, "this has a good deal of information specific to your five plushies, as well as activation information, and a little bit of explanation. However, most of the explanation I will cover presently. Do you have any questions that you want to begin with?"
Crackers' hand was trembling as she reached out to take the envelope; it, too, felt real. She slipped it into her massive brown purse. (The tacky thing accompanied her everywhere, chiefly on account of paranoia.)
"As a m-matter of fact, sir, I do," she answered, confidence unexpectedly building in her voice. "First, with all due respect once more, aren't you dead? Second, what if I don't have room in my 900-square foot house for five life-sized plushies? How long is your program going to last for? Is this a dream?"
"Slow down, my girl. I am about to answer all of those questions and more. I will start with the first, though. You see, some people don't die-"
He was cut off by what sounded to Crackers like a strange ringtone. Tolkien sighed and pulled out of his pocket... an iPhone? Upon looking at the screen, he swore under his breath and muttered, "That Michael is always wanting something!"
To Crackers, he said, sounding aggravated, "Excuse me, I had best take this."
He put the phone to his ear and answered it with, "Hello, Mr. Jackson."
Michael Jackson? Both of Crackers' heroes were actually alive! After all of those times Mom teased me because they were both dead, too... she thought to herself, not without a twinge of excitement.
"Yes, yes," Tolkien was now saying, "I don't give tuppence what Mr. Presley has done... No! No, I can't... What? No, he wouldn't have!" Tolkien cursed, cursed again, and continued, "I'll be back at once... So sorry... Thank you, sir... Good-bye."
He hung up and turned to Crackers, speaking swiftly, "I apologize, my girl. Unfortunate circumstances have arisen, and I am forced to cut this visit short. Your letter will give you enough information to go by. Farewell."
He pressed something else into her hand; she glanced down to see a pass back to class, filled out and signed by the receptionist. How had they known what time it would be? she wondered. When she looked back up, the Professor had vanished.