Good guess! That was Michael. This is... a guy who is STILL unfortunately without a name because I kinda messed up and gave his away to another character. Doh! For the moment, I am calling him Bee.
I'm guessing you're a little familiar with Eric's story if you knew about Michael, so you remember how Erick went to go live with the great-great-granddaughters of the mage who cursed him? They ran a small farm/inn/shop place? This kiddo kinda got dumped on them by a traveling group passing through, and was allowed to stay if he helped out around the place. He was about twelve when he met Erick, they were both odd sorts of hired-hand misfits.
It could have been that Bee was young and therefor way more accepting of Erick's curse than adults, or that they were just the only two guys living there, but either way they became constant companions and it did them both a world of good. Bee was often found riding or napping on Erick's back when in monster form, and they had many adventures back in the woods. Scrawny little kid grew up to be a six-foot hunk and towered over his best friend, and never stopped teasing him about it. They were close all of Bee's life. Erick was something like a big brother/pleasantly immature father to him, and Bee filled the void left when Erick became estranged from his dear siblings.
It's good to know that Erick wasn't so alone when he was without his brothers but it is also sad to know that Erick will have outlived him as well. This is one of the downsides of his curse, but since Eric is always looking on the bright side of things, living for centuries means meeting more wonderful people (and trying many new foods)!
Has Eric ever written letters to someone who isn't alive anymore? It seems like a strange question, but if I lived for as long as he has I would want to talk to a loved one who had already passed and this seems like an easy way to do so.
Also, have you ever given thought as to what Eric experiences during his reanimation? You mentioned he comes back rather shaken and scared and I can only imagine that he's been through hell and back (not that Eric would ever go to hell. He's far too sweet for that)
Naw, not strange at all! He probably has at some point written such a letter, but he generally just talks to the people he misses in his head. Monsters have not always been welcome in the Network, and who knows what kind of attention being publicly immortal would bring a person, so Eric has historically been cautious to put his thoughts on being either down on paper, and certainly not if he wasn't intending to destroy the writing after.
I... am being vague about what Eric experiences while dead until I decide what actually does happen to Networkers after death. Necromancy is of course a thing in the Network, so although they have the same questions as many people in our world about life, death, souls, and beyond, they have the advantage of knowing that there is definitely a spirit/lifeforce thing, because they can observe and manipulate it. Necromancy's biggest enemy has always been religion, which has successfully kept it crushed underfoot for all of history until just very, very recently, because necromancy is a science that is actively charting and navigating in territory that has always been the sacred stuff of faith. If they ever find some answers I hope they let me know. But for the moment, I am suspecting that spirit stuff is broken down and recycled in some way. Not like reincarnation, more like a vast sea of the stuff, draining away here and there.
Any case, I don't think Eric actually 'experiences' anything while dead. I think in the last few moments before he 'wakes up' he has the equivalent of a massive crazy nightmare as his brains are drawn back together, reliving everything he's done in the last four centuries in no particular order. It's a lot to take in, tremendously confusing, leaves him feeling the full force of how small he is compared to his life and how isolated he is from the past, all the lost good things, all the scary bad things, all blended together like a fine vomit. I'm sure you've had bad dreams that kind of haunt you for the rest of the day. Even if you quickly forget the details of the dream, it's still got you feeling creeped out and unhappy. That's kind of Eric for a few months after 'coming back.'
Eric's house is an anachronistic spectacle, really, so it's pretty weird to begin with. 200+ year old junk like lanterns and chests aren't uncommon sights sharing shelves with Blu-ray players and iPhone chargers. He tells people he's just a collector (which is true, very little of it was actually his), and he's generally regarded as a lovable eccentric by all acquaintances who aren't in on his secret. He keeps anything particularly personal stowed in a locked room upstairs, stuff that would be above and beyond raising questions. Like, indeed, letters from the 17th century, crappy old daguerreotypes that sometimes have a very familiar face in them, photograph albums that start in the turn of the century and fairly obviously show Eric's age cycle, self-portrait sketches of his monster form over the years, etc. YES, I just said he doesn't like to leave a paper trail, but what he does have from his past is precious to him beyond belief, and it'd take a house fire (his nightmare) to part him from any of it.
He likes to wait a few days before trying to contact anyone, although a friend or three have usually tasked themselves with checking in on his house while he's gone, and on occasion have surprised him before he was quite ready to be around people. He acts like a very bad Alzheimer patient at first, and he TRIES to warn people before he goes not to visit him too soon when he's back, but they tend not to listen, especially when they're a very concerned girlfriend. On the single occasion that he's died while Penny's known him, she came to welcome him back waaay too soon, and got a rude wake-up from whatever Disney fantasy she was expecting, wherein their love soared over the span of centuries and brought Eric back to his old self with a kiss. He absolutely did not recognize her let alone feel anything approaching affection, and was more interested in prowling around the darkened house pulling at his hair and face and staring madly into the middle distance and generally looking pathetic beyond reason and destroying Penny who could offer him nothing. It was just a couple weeks, though, before the feels came back. (:
Eric is pretty much at the end of his tolerable lifespan when we first meet him in the modern Network story. At that point he's friends with the Librarians and hasn't met Penny yet. He offs himself for a younger body, and four years later he meets Penny and is the 32 year-old we're used to on dA. In five years he'll take himself out again, because Penny will be 28, the same as Eric when he regenerates, so that they can appear the same age together. He'll plan to live as long as Penny after that. So he's only meant to die twice in the modern story. (And presumably he gets to die for real at the end but I don't like to thiiiiink about thaaaat.)
The mere thought of a fire, even a minor one, is simply tragic! Although a darker side of me would wonder what Eric would be like if a fire did take his stuff away (please don't tell me!)...
Does Eric ever show Penny the things he has collected over the years?
I actually think it would be a bit funny imagining that scene of Penny coming to Eric to early. To Eric, it would probably be like a crazy, love-sick space girl breaking into to the house to take him away (now what would Cornelius look like to Eric, hmm. XD)!
I know Eric doesn't like living into his sixties, the solution of course is to commit suicide, but I would just like to know how he goes about, erm, doing this? I mean, if I was immortal, and knowing I was going to come back after I die, I would still be more than hesitant about going through with suicide!
I also wonder how he alerts his friends not to come back to early. Eric is practically telling them, "I'm going to kill myself, so wait a few months before coming by okay?"
To be honest, Eric is really, really used to getting over things. If all his memorabilia were destroyed he'd take it hard at first, but wouldn't be half as upset a month on as he thinks he'd be. Half the reason he keeps that stuff is because it functions as anchors to memories he'd probably lose otherwise. He's forgotten so much of his life, though, that if these little blips were lost he'd feel that much emptier, but it'd be nothing horrifically new or anything.
Oh man, Penny has pretty much seen everything and heard every story. Even about Eric's past lovers/partners. Which I think would be kinda awkward, but Penny is fascinated by stories about these other ladies who once shared a love for her darling dearest. She'd KILL to meet Jessabelle, who she's heard so much about from Eric that she feels like she knows her. Eric sometimes sketches and paints her from memory, he's never really been able to let her go.
Oh, he's PLENTY hesitant about suicide! He puts it off as long as he can stand. He's highly predisposed to both rheumatoid and blindness, which hit him like clockwork in his late sixties, and by then a brand new body is sounding pretty good. He almost always poisons himself. With care, so it's like falling asleep. Jess and Aiden taught him a trusty mixture he uses to this day.
Dealing with the ramifications of literally falling off the earth for a month or three has almost always been the hardest part. It's different every single time. Sometimes he's had property he needs watched over, sometimes not. Sometimes he has close friends he can trust with the truth, sometimes not. Sometimes he's in a situation he can pick up life where he left it, but the majority of the time he's actually had to move to other cities or countries and start over to avoid questions.
Things are changing fast in the Network, however. For his past three deaths he's been able to stay in the same place. Couple reasons. It's more ok to be a monster this century. His monster shape is much less scary than it was. And he's been found out. The digital age took the old fellow somewhat by surprise, and between bank accounts and birth certificates and citizenship records and all the various tags placed on the modern person he was not quite clever enough to evade government suspicion. Instead of having his assets frozen and/or being locked up for apparently lying about his age and identity, he pleaded his case for special consideration. A tiny, secretive branch of the government has had Eric Thedrial on file in their highly confidential list of 'uniquely unique citizens' for thirty years or so. All they know is he's immortal as of at least this century and suffers a transformative cycle. They send an annoying aide around twice a year to meet with him over paperwork and 'are you still permanently immortal?' and garbage. On the bright side, they do keep his records and bank accounts from being dissolved when he dies, so it helps with the picking up where he left off business.
As for the actual letting friends know he's going MIA for a while, yeah, it's as awkward as you're probably thinking. He gathers all his patience together and tries to explain it's for the best. He really does try to impress that he will call them when he's ready, and if the house is lit when they come to check on it everyone will regret everything if they barge in before then.