Ron Carnage sat in his study and thought about taking a long drag of his pipe. He wasn't going to, as he doesn't smoke.
The pipe was a treasure of sorts, a gift from an old friend from an adventure long, long ago. Ron was pretty set on the no smoking thing. That's not to say there would NEVER be a situation in which he'd smoke, but it was highly unlikely.
For example, if Ron was drafted to go to Vietnam in a parallel universe and they handed him a helmet and a pair of boots, and on top of the pile there was a pack of cowboy killers and he was like, "I don't smoke," and the lieutenant stared right into his eyes with a gaze incapable of emotion and simply said, "You will," that's not to say he wouldn't light one up and take a drag a few months later when his best friend from the old neighborhood added another ear to his flesh necklace, BUT -- he, to this point, did not smoke, and liked it that way.
Yes, the pipe was a gift from an adventure a long time ago. Ron was a different person then. Son of Ronald Carnage, Ron nowadays was a roofer by trade, archer by necessity, and lute player by hobby -- that is, in whatever time he had left in the day before he fought off the demons in his sleep.
Ron had no wife, no daughter, and no son, but often wondered whether or not he'd name his boy Ronnie, like his father did with him, or whether he'd call his son something like Nicholas. Perhaps he’d name the boy Ron Nicholas Carnage and call him Nicholas instead of Ron the third. He figured he wouldn't do something like that -- call a boy by his middle name his whole life -- but rather just call the boy Nicholas in the first place, or stick to the Ron III thing instead of lying to yourself and everyone around you. Oh the games we play.
These were the thoughts that often helped Ron deal with the burden of existence, his mind wandering as it avoided the memories of a past life.
Despite his name, Ron didn't care much for carnage, just the occasional lute playing at the local tavern (though as you may have guessed, he doesn’t drink).
Ron lived a quiet life now, keeping mostly to himself just outside Leon, his hometown. This was a perfectly normal night. That is until it wasn’t. A sudden flurry of knocks at the door cut through an otherwise silent room. Ron hadn't had a visitor in years. He walked over and paused for a moment before opening the door.
It was a man in a hooded cloak.
“I’m looking for the Thinker Boy,” the man said.
Thinker Boy was his nickname when he was a lad. Lil' Ronnie "the Thinker Boy" Carnage. And boy, was he a thinker. In his youth, Ron was thinkin' all the goddamn time -- thinkin’ about all sorts of shit.
"I haven't heard that name in a long time," said Ron. "A lifetime. And, you know, actually, it's the strangest thing, I was literally just thinking about that -- right over there in my chair. I don't go out much. I don't really smoke or drink. Man, what a crazy coincidence."
“I see,” said the man in the cloak.
"Can I offer you a smoke?” Ron said. “Again, I don't smoke, but you certainly can. That pipe you see over there is just a gift. Man, really, I was JUST thinking about like all of these little details of my life, like, it couldn't have been more than 40 seconds ago."
"I don't mean to be a bother, sir,” the cloaked man interjected. “But could you help me find this Thinker Boy?"
“Why yes," said Ron. "You're looking at him."
"Ronnie?" said the cloaked man.
Mr. Carnage was confused.
"You son of a bitch! It's me, Levi, one of your loyal pals from the old neighborhood,” said Levi, one of Ron’s most loyal friends from the old neighborhood.
"You son of a bitch!" said Ron. "It's me, Ron!"
“Well, I’ll be,” said Levi. “Fucking hell.”
“Fucking hell, indeed,” said Ron.
An uncomfortable silence followed -- both staring at each other, mouths open, but both taking labored breaths through their nostrils, despite their mouths being open. These were not empty moments, however -- waves of memories began to flood both of their brains. So much time had passed since their last adventure.
You may be asking yourself: Why did Levi come? How long had Ron lived this life of general solitude? Does Levi smoke and drink, two things Ron Carnage doesn't usually partake in, as we’ve mentioned? Well, this isn’t the end of the chapter (or the book for that matter), so you can carry on if you’d like.
Ron Carnage and his oldest, most loyal friend from the old neighborhood, Levi, spent hours cracking wise and reminiscing. This was unusual for our Thinker Boy, who, lately, spent absolutely no time at all thinking about his past.
"Remember the nuns at the St. James school for boys, near the cathedral?" Levi asked.
"You son of a bitch," said Ron. "Boy, do I."
“Do you remember when they told you that you needed to cut your hair, old boy?” said Levi.
“Yes, yes,” said Ron. “And I, very respectfully, of course, asked them whether or not modern representations of Jesus Christ himself had long hair! The hypocrisy! What an absolute hoot.”
“Indeed,” said Levi.
“Son of a bitch,” said Ron.
“Indeed,” said Levi.
The two paused for a moment to exhale from their laughter.
“I ran to the bathroom,” said Ron.
“Oh did you?” said Levi.
“Yes, immediately after,” said Ron. “I cried for hours!”
“Oh is that what happened?” said Levi.
“Several hours, yes,” said Ron.
“Fucking hell,” said Levi.
“Indeed, old boy, indeed,” said Ron.
He and Levi caught their breath from the gut-busting laughter that comes with reminiscing with a dear friend. The two went on like this, sharing hearty chortles, considering the childish pranks of old they'd committed, as two old sons of bitches would.
"Smoke?" Levi asked.
"You know I don't smoke," Ron said. "You son of a bitch!"
"Fucking hell," chuckled Levi. "I know."
Levi, unlike Ron, was known to partake in a few drinks of an alcoholic nature from time to time.
"Do you mind if we head down to the Fiddle Inn down the road, old boy?" said Levi.
"You know, Levi, that's something I'd like very much," said Ron.
Ron and Levi headed down to the Fiddle Inn, a local tavern. The night was young, unlike our protagonists. You see Ron and Levi were half-elves and had lived to see several centuries -- more than either expected to in their youth, back when they ran around with very little knowledge of how their world worked.
Ron and Levi spent many hours in their younger years strumming fiddles and lutes and the like with their good friend Fletcher “Flappy” Murphy, Sr., who has since passed on. Fletcher, Sr. served alongside Ron and Levi through many adventures, a gifted bare-knuckle boxer who spent many nights at the Fiddle Inn, back when the bar hosted its Friday Fight Nights. But mortal blood ran through Fletcher’s veins; his passing did not sit well with the Thinker Boy.
Fortunately for Ron, Levi’s presence allowed a faint feeling of joy to creep back into his life, and as the two of them arrived at the Fiddle Inn’s door, they were filled to the brim with nostalgia. They knocked.
"Yes?" said doorman slash barkeep.
"We, with the utmost respect, request entrance, you son of a bitch," said Levi.
"Well if it isn't Levi," said the doorman slash barkeep. "And -- I almost don’t believe my own eyes -- is that Ron Carnage?”
The doorman slash barkeep adjusted his spectacles.
“Well, I'd love to let you in, but I'm going to need a password. This is a speakeasy now. Just an unassuming speakeasy, owned and run by me, an unassuming doorman slash barkeep,” he said.
The Fiddle Inn was not, and never had been a speakeasy. Levi knew this. He and the doorman slash barkeep were about to try and pull a fast one on the Thinker Boy.
"What's the password, old boy?" asked Levi, giving Ron’s arm a nudge.
"Just give me a minute to think, old boy!" Ron said. "This is a life I left behind years ago.”
"Think, Thinker Boy, Think!" urged Levi, practically cheering.
Ron peered up into the eyes of the doorman slash barkeep, who was still looking through the slot. He paused, as if trying to comprehend what he was about to say.
"A sort of desertscape," said Mr. Carnage.
“What?” said the doorman slash barkeep.
“And there’s an octopus,” said Ron, almost painfully, rubbing his eyes and trying to gather his thoughts once more. “A nerdy octopus. And he’s smoking a cigarette. But still nerdy. Like this is his first cigarette and you can tell. Real nerdy. Like glasses that are too big for his face or something.”
“Ron, what?” said the doorman slash barkeep.
“Nerdy octopus, you heard the man,” said Levi, patting Ron on the back.
The eye slot closed. The door opened. Levi slipped a coin into the doorman slash barkeep’s pocket as he silently mouthed, “What the fuck was that?”
“Just a pint,” said Levi. “Keep the change.”
Ron sat next to the only person sitting at the bar.
“Do I know you?” he said.
“Fletcher Murphy, Jr.,” said the man. “But you can call me Flappy.”
“No fucking way,” said Ron.
“Yes fucking way,” said Levi, sitting down next to the Thinker Boy. “Flaps, my man, this is Ron Carnage. He knew your dad way back when.”
Like his father before him, Flappy sat at the bar with a dark liquor. And just like his father before him, there were about a dozen small empty glasses on the bar before the night was through. The three enjoyed their moment, but a danger lingered in the air, an inexplicable danger. This would be a night of peace and joy, but those feelings wouldn't last for long. Ron knew this, or at least he felt it, and as the drinks poured he pondered what might have led Levi to his door earlier that evening.