The Lord of the... whatever, Rare Manuscripts:
The Stairs Of Cirith Ungallant
Saddam was tugging at Frodo's cloak and hissing with fear and impatience.
'We must go,' he said. 'We mustn't stand here. Nine items or less only.
Must make haste.'
Reluctantly Frodo turned his back to the West and followed as his guide
led him, into the immensely long line of the East. They left the ring of
trees and pushed the cart along the aisle toward the mountains. This aisle,
too, ran straight for a while, but soon it began to bend away southwards,
until it came right under a great display of Rocky Balboa Spaghetti Sauce.
Black and forbidding it loomed above them, darker than the burnt-out neon
tubes behind. Crawling under its shadow the aisle went on, and rounding it
sprang east again and began to climb in prices steeply.
Frodo and Sam were plodding along with heavy carts, no longer able to care
greatly about their purchase. Frodo's head was bowed; his groceries were
dragging him down. As soon as the great Crossroads had been passed, the
Ring once again worked its way on him. He arranged his tunic to hang
loosely in front of his knickers, hoping against hope Sam would not notice
and start sniggering. Again. He looked up wearily; and then he saw it,
even as Saddam said he would: the Circuit City of the Ringwraiths. He
cowered against the shelf of imported coffee beans.
A long-tilted mall, a deep gulf of consumerism, ran back far into the
mountains. On the further side, some way within the mall's interior, high
above the third floor stood the walls and towers of Minas Morgul. All was
dark about it, floor and ceiling, but it was lit with light. Not the
imprisoned moonlight of Minas Ithil, but a faint phosphorescent glow.
Strange tidings scrolled on the walls in the ancient script of the Arial-
elves: Seduce a woman in sixty seconds, guaranteed! Balrogs do have wings!
Make money fast! Answers were given, it's not my concern you don't like
them! Lakefront property now available for development! In the walls and
tower monitors showed, like countless black holes looking inward to the
emptiness of telemarketeers; but the topmost course of the tower revolved
slowly, first one way, and then another, a huge ghostly neon sign
flickering advertisements for NazgCola into the night. For a moment the
companions stood there, hypnotised, staring up with unwilling eyes. Saddam
was the first to recover. Almost he dragged them forward. Every step was
reluctant, and bargains seem to dangle before their eyes, enticing them to
extract their pocketbooks.
They came slowly to the white security gate. Here the aisle, gleaming
faintly, passed over the stream in the midst of the valley, and went on,
winding up to the city's main checkout gates. Wide flats lay on either
bank, shadowy meads filled with pale yellow french fries. Luminous these
were too, greasy yet horrible in nutrition, like the deep-fried lumps of a
take-away dinner; and they gave forth a faint cloying beef-lard smell; the
odour of American cuisine filled the air. From mead to mead a security
gate sprang on gilded arches. Figures stood there at its head, injection
molded in forms of a clown and dwarves and animated foods. The liquid
flowed beneath, and it steamed, but the vapour that rose from it smelled
of cola and orange-ade and fermented milkshakes. Frodo felt his senses
reeling and stomach aching. Then suddenly, as if some marketting ploy were
at work other than his own will, he began to salivate, his groping hands
held out, his tongue lolling from side to side. Both Sam and Saddam ran
after him. Sam caught his master in his arms, as he stumbled and almost
fell, right on the threshold of the security gate,
'Not that way! No, the metal detectors!' whisperred Saddam, but the breath
between his teeth seemed to tear the heavy metal muzak.
'Hold up, Mr Frodo!' mutterred Sam in Frodo's ear. 'Come back! Not that
way. We got twinkies, Mr Frodo. No need for all that greasy stuff.'
Frodo passed his hand over his brow and wrenched his eyes away from the
outlet on the third floor. The phosphor tower fascinated him, and he
fought the desire that was on him to sit in front of it typing pointless
tracts day and night. At last with an effort he turned away, but as he did
so he felt the Ring resisting him, dragging at its chain about his wallet;
and his eyes too, as he looked away, seemed to have blinded by the light.
He was another runner in the night.
Saddam, crawling on the ground as befitted his usual cuisine, was already
vanishing around the music store. Sam, supporting and guiding his
spendthrift master, followed him as quickly as he could. Not far from the
security gate, there was a door into the service area behind the shops.
Through this they passed, and Sam saw that they were in a narrow corridor
lit with faint fitful naked neon tubes, as the main mall was, as they
climbed passed the electrical closets and janitorial supplies.
Along this corridor the hobbits trudged, side by side, unable to see
Saddam in front of them, except when they used their stealth night vision
gear ($129.99 or 12 easy payments of $19.98). Slowly they laboured on. As
they rose above the stench of the food court and the perfume sprayers
their breath became easier and their heads clearer; but now their limbs
were deadly tired, as if they had participated in an all-night Midnight
Madness sale. At last they could go no further without a halt.
Frodo stopped and sat down on a metal bucket. They had now climbed up on
to a high ledge overlooking the mall, whence the workers reached the
ceiling for cleaning and maintenance. Behind them were accesses into the
ductwork. A few steps away they would be hidden from sight, so Frodo
decided to stop where they were. Sam laid out the gingham cloth and they
began setting out the tea service.
Saddam kept tugging and Frodo and pleading with him to leave. 'Oh, all
right,' Frodo finally agreed with his usual immaculate sense of timing.
At that moment the rock quivered and trembled beneath them. The great
groaning noise, louder than ever before, rolled in the ground and echoed
in the mountains. Then with searing suddenness there came as a series of
pulsating red flashes as fresh lava was spurted from Mount Doom. In that
cleft of shadow and cold deathly light it seemed unbearably violent and
fierce. The mountain gave no thought to whether the valley enjoyed it; it
concentrated on its own pleasures as it signaled to spill its armies on
But Minas Morgul did answer, but whether faked or real Frodo could not
tell. There was a flare of livid lightnings: forks of blue flames
springing up from the mall into the breast of the clouds. The earth
moaned; and out of the outlet there came a cry. Mingled with harsh high
voices, a rending screech, and mad drum beats, the voice of Slim Whitman
rose wailing and mercifully yodelled itself beyond the range of hearing.
Then from the stores, the army issued.
All that host was clad in sable and chiffon, dark as night. Frodo watched
the mall rats march out, rank by rank. Bleached-hair girls dressed as
hookers, pimple-faced boys with skateboards, drunken housewives, and
Christmas shoppers trapped in endless last-minute shopping sprees. Before
them went a great cavalry of electric wheelchairs, and at their head was
one greater than all the rest: none other than the BitchQueen. Now
he was drawing near the security gate below, and Frodo's staring eyes
followed him, unable to wink or to withdraw. Surely he could not expect to
mix the purple feathered boa with that pink dayglo leisure suit? But, yes
here indeed he did manage to pull it off. Frodo's envy throbbed.
The rider halted suddenly, right in front the main glass doors, and behind
him all the host was still. There was a pause, dead silence. Maybe it was
the Ring that called to the Wraith-lord, and for a moment he was troubled,
sensing a faster means of seducing elf-maidens than even his own. This way
and that turned his blind eyes, obviously seeing nothing. Duh.
But the Wraith-king turned and spurred his horse and rode out of the mall,
and all his dark host followed him. Maybe the years of accumulated grease
and dust defied his unseen eyes. Maybe he should just get a new pair of
glasses. But he was in haste. Already the hour was struck, and his great
Master's bidding he must simply dash off to war. Sauron was soooo butch.
Soon he had passed, taking with him his wheelchair cavalry, mall rats,
post office employees and perfume girls. On their brows sat vapidity, and
in their hands were charge cards. And the very end came a forty year old
Gap manager on a rusty tricycle; he proudly bore his name tag, 'Hi! My
name is Gothmog! Tell me how I can help you jump in a lake!'
'Let's vamoose, Mr Frodo. The parade is over.' Frodo stirred reluctantly
and combed the aluminum ticker-tape from his hair. 'They're shutting down
the mall. They're setting the burglar alarums and letting the guard dogs
loose. If we stay here, they'll get us. Come on, Mr Frodo.'
Frodo raised his head and then stood up. The desire to go into debt had
not passed, but the weakness had passed. He smiled grimly, feeling now as
clearly as a moment before he had felt the opposite, that he could make it
to the Fire, that he would make it to the Fire, that he had no knowledge
of the lower oxygen content of mountain air. He took his staff in one hand
and Galadriel's phial in his other. Then turning from the grand parade
of lifeless packaging, now no more than a grey glimmer with the lights
turned off, he prepared to take the airducts.
Saddam, it seemed, had crawled into some underground shelter, leaving the
hobbits to the mercy of any flying nazguls peering in the night. He now
came creeping back, his teeth chattering and his fingers snapping.
'Foolish! Silly!' he hissed. 'Make haste! Brinks guards will be patrolling
sssoon. Make haste!'
They did not answer, but they followed him into the main duct. It was
suspended over a large loading bay. It was little to the liking of either
of them, not even after facing so many other perils; but it did not last
long. Soon the duct was passing through walls and along crawlways. They
had come to the first stair Saddam had spoken of, and stare they did.
'Careful!' he whispered. 'Steps. Lots of steps. Must be careful.'
The stairway was corroded, perhaps originally aluminum, or maybe pewter.
It had no warning labels and Frodo doubted it conformed to consumer safety
laws. Yet again the evil of Sauron showed as he thumbed his nose at the
laws of the decent folk. The stairway was as steep as a ladder, perhaps
because it was one. The rungs were cracked and unevenly spaced. The
hobbits struggled on, forcing their aching knees to bend and straighten.
It reminded Frodo of his atheletic yet ultimately futile carpet-crawling
with Cassiopeia. However, in this case, Frodo did reach the top.
Frodo and Sam sat down and rubbed their legs and knees. Saddam did not let
them rest long. 'Up and at 'em. Early bird gets the worm. When the going
gets tough, the tough get going. Another stair still. Much longer stair.
Escalator broken. Rest then. Full amenties.'
Sam groaned. 'Longer, did you say?'
'Yess, longer, but eassier. Not so difficult. Hobbits have climbed the
Straight Stair. Next comes the Gay Stair.'
This duct seemed to go on for shekels, and always the chill air of the
overworked air conditioning flowed over them. The mountains seemed to be
trying with their deadly breath to daunt them, to laugh at them that they
didn't need Listerine. They only knew they had come to the end when they
came to the end. The duct ended how on the roof of the mall where suddenly
they felt no wall at their right hand. A cliff was on their left and chasm
on their right.
It was more than just another mall parking lot. The pallid corpse lights
below and the cry of a Assemblyman cruelly ridden by a lobbyist formed
into the outlines of Sacramento. Frodo shudder at yet another horror in
this Valarforsaken place. They reached the Gay Stairs that kept veering
left and right. They climbed them. They got to the top. What did you
expect? A carefully written epic novel?
At the top of the Stair they followed a small cleft through the chin of
the Ephel Dúath, away from the main course of the Sacramento Valley. Dimly
the hobbits could discern ancient freezers and junked automobiles. It was a
sad way that wormed its way through the mountains, a graveyard of mindless
shopping frenzies. Pet rocks. Hula hoops. Hostess cupcakes still fresh in
their packaging. Still far ahead, and still high above, but luckily not in
this chapter, Frodo, looking up, saw, as he guessed, the top. Against the
sullen redness of the eastern sky a cleft was outlined between two black
shoulders and on either shoulder was a horn on the heads of the ridges.
He paused and looked more attentively. The horn upon the left was tall and
slender; and in it burned a red light. He saw it now: it was a black tower
poised above the outer pass. He touched Sam's arm and pointed.
'Hey, Saddam. Your secret way is guarded after all,' he growled turning to
'All ways are watched, yess,' said Saddam. 'Of course they are. But
hobbits must try some way. This way may be least watched. Red light
district. Brothel it isss, brothel above the convention centre.'
With that the hobbits decided to take a rest.
In a dark crevice between two great mounds of aluminum siding they sat
down. Dead tired and facing imminent death, they began a long and
pointless philosophical discussion.
'If you could be any fictional character you could be, who would that be?'
'George Washington. He was the father of his country---'
'--more than you'll ever likely be--'
'--and retired famous, wealthy enough, and beloved by his countrymen.'
'But he owned slaves.'
'Well, Mr Frodo, isn't that what we're fighting here, the Shadow and all.'
'You have ideas above your station, Sam. Look around you. All this wasted
junk. This what happens when you given the proletariat the means to
purchase the finer things in life. Look at yourself, Sam-boy. You haven't
got the brains to know some fake antique from Bree from a Fëanorian
original. This vapid consumerism. That's what it gives you. It's even
infected politics. Politicians presented as candy bars.'
'Now, Mr Frodo, I don't think that's very nice. We're all created equal,
Sam frowned but could think of nothing to say. Not yet, but one day there
would be reckoning. But for the moment they needed rest. They nestled in
each others' arms and drifted off to sleep on the hard rock floor strewn
with pebbles. Sam listen to Frodo murmurring softly, 'T-t-t-t-ouch me!
Make me feel dirty! T-t-t-t-ouch me! Creature of the night. Creature of
And so Saddam found them hours later, when he returned from where he had
gone. Something like a conscience almost bubbled into existence when Sam
woke somewhat and called him a counterrevolutionary class traitor. Saddam
took it rather hard that he was accused of doing exactly what he had been
planning. With a few whines and snarls, he led them into the darkness of
the next chapter.
This exciting piece of draft material is presented through the courtesy of
Wide China Blue Yonder <mlindanne-aaaaaaat-hotmail-dawt-com>.
Copyright © 2000 by the author. All rights reserved. Some variance between this
e-text and the original printed material by Professor Tolkien is inevitable. Using this
as an electronic resource for scholarly or research purposes may lead to a certain
degree of academic embarassment. All agree that the printed version of the text,
available from respectable publishers such as Houghton Mifflin and Ballantine Books,
is to be preferred.
Any resemblance between the Bitch-queen and Ron Popeil is strictly a coincidence.