Author's Note: This story is intended to be a light-hearted means of laughing amid all the hardships that are currently wreaking havoc across the world. It does not imply that the devastating effects of COVID-19 are themselves a laughing matter. I hope it lifts your spirits during this tumultuous and difficult time.

Frodo Baggins awoke in the house of Elrond at ten o'clock in the morning (on October the 24th, if you want to know) with in an inexplicable desire to wash his hands for twenty seconds. As his wits slowly returned to him and the memory of the horrible chase of the Black Riders resurfaced, he felt that such a silly, insignificant thought about washing one's hands ought to flee his mind at once. But as the pain of his shoulder wound increased, the feeling of invisible germs crawling all over his hands made a small voice in his head begin to scream in panic.

"Gandalf," Frodo said, glancing up at the wizard who he now noticed was seated at his bedside. "Do you have any hand sanitizer?"

The wizard's expression grew darker. "Why, my dear hobbit, would a resident of the Shire be interested in hand sanitizer?" His question was stern, but not unkind.

Frodo swallowed hard, trying to make sense of his own feelings. He attempted to recall more details surrounding his encounter with the Black Riders, but he shuddered and the thought and shook the memories away. "It's just a feeling. Something from being around the…around them." Gandalf nodded slowly, but Frodo could tell the old wizard knew more than he was letting on. "Gandalf, what does it mean?"

The wizard frowned and stayed deep in thought, but after only a few moments, he seemed to make a decision, and he leaned forward in his chair. "There have been rumors, Frodo. Rumors that the Dark Lord is planning something to impede the efforts of the Free Peoples. Right now, he knows where the Ring is. And he doesn't want it moving beyond his sight."

Frodo clenched his jaw. "What would he do?"

Gandalf shook his head like the answer was something he didn't like to consider, but he did not refrain from responding. "A virus," he answered in an ominous whisper. "Perhaps somehow, through your contact with the Nazgûl, you were alerted to its presence. And perhaps, after all, it is not a myth."

"A virus?" Frodo asked with fear. "You mean a devastating illness, like Ebola or the Black Plague?"

Gandalf shook his head again. "There has been word that it is a coronavirus, and it is probably something like the seasonal flu."

Frodo's expression changed to one of confusion. "The flu? But won't that be somewhat…irrelevant?"

"Oh, it will be incredibly relevant!" Gandalf explained. "This virus is said to be far more contagious than the flu."

Frodo nodded gravely. "I see. So it poses the threat of overwhelming our resources."

"If it reacts in this part of Middle-earth as it has in other lands, it could very well do so," Gandalf agreed. "Elrond and many others have initiatives in place to ensure it will not spread to this region. But it may in fact already be here, my good hobbit."

Frodo cocked his head. "Then…I suppose it must not be truly much to fear, since no one seems to have noticed it."

"On the contrary, it could be anywhere!" the wizard exclaimed, waving his hand around as though he expected to be attacked by the unseen virus any moment. "Anyone could be carrying it at this moment because not all carriers show symptoms, and most that do will only experience a cold of flu-like state."

Frodo blinked. "But Gandalf: that means its actual danger is significantly less—"

"I know this is all creating a most terrifying prospect," the wizard murmured, clearly off in his own world of thought. "Try not to think about it, if you can; it is not a burden you need to bear at present. You need to rest and heal, and Master Elrond has already tested you for the virus and found that you are negative, thank the Valar. We will be having a Zoom council shortly to discuss the best way to proceed with the matter of the Ring. Until then, get some rest, my dear hobbit."

Just then Sam rushed through the doorway, his eyes alighting joyfully on his master. "Frodo! Bless you, you're awake!"

Although Frodo assumed his friend was beaming brightly, he could not be sure: the newly arrived hobbit's mouth and nose were completely covered by a mask. Several more were in his gloved hands, but all his attention was on his master, and he tried to press up against the bed. However, the wizard quickly stood to full height, his towering figure seeming to cast a shadow over the whole room as his voice grew loud and terrible.

"Six feet apart, Mr. Gamgee! Or perhaps I shall turn you into something unnatural."

Sam realized his fatal mistake and quickly backed away so that he was a safe distance from both Gandalf and Frodo. He looked up at his master with shame in his eyes. "Forgive me, Mr. Frodo. I seem to have gotten carried away; I'm just so glad you tested negative." Sam glanced over at the wizard, who had now returned to his seat. "My apologies, Mr. Gandalf. And these did just come in."

He tossed a mask to both Gandalf and Frodo, and they each quickly used the equipment to cover their faces properly. Frodo was shocked at how rapidly this rumor of the virus had changed daily life, but he supposed that he could hardly dare to doubt the wisdom of Gandalf, so he determined to consider it a serious threat for the time being.

"Don't worry, Frodo," Gandalf said, making small adjustments to try to settle his mask comfortably over his gigantic beard. "By the skills of Lord Elrond, you'll begin to practice social distancing and quarantining."

Just as Gandalf finished his statement, Frodo glanced at the doorway, and he saw the master of the house enter the room. The elf was wearing not only a mask and gloves, but he also sported a plastic face shield and a hazmat suite. In a voice muffled by all his equipment, he greeted Frodo with words the hobbit could hardly make out: "Wlcm ttt Rvndl, Frdo Bgnz!"

Author's Note: I'm just as shocked as anyone to find out that I am indeed writing a fanfic during the current times of quarantine. But it's long overdue, and it feels good to be writing fanfiction again. Hopefully y'all find this story as enjoyable to read as I'm finding it to write.

I pray that you are all holding up as we weather this thing. It's been both good and bad for me; I lost my job as a result of the virus almost five weeks ago, and I have also battled some illness (not from COVID-19, don't you worry) on and off. But I managed to write 15 pages each weekday of my first three weeks of unemployment, and thus I finished a new novel draft (it's the third one I have ever completed). I've also read about a million books, and I'm not about to run out of them (the 5 bookshelves in our apartment do not come close to accommodating the amount of books we actually own). My husband has been able to work from home, so although I'm itching to get back to work, we aren't about to collapse from financial strain while we patiently await our state reopening. God has provided well for us!

I'm looking forward to hearing from y'all; what did you think of the first chapter, and do you have any ideas about what should happen to the brave Frodo Baggins and his friends as the virus becomes a reality for them? I have only a vague outline of the story in my head, so I'd be happy to incorporate concepts from my reviewers!