Disclaimer: Penumbra Black Plague belongs to Frictional Games. I'm only borrowing Dr. Eminiss for a while.
A/N: I was never able to nail down Dr. Eminiss' accent exactly, so I made him American for simplicity's sake. XD
Richard had always been a strange child.
From the moment of his birth there had been signs that he was... different from everyone. He was her first child – her only child – and she had looked eagerly to the day he arrived in the world. The delivery had been quick and easy, and once he had crowned, she had pushed herself upright on the birthing couch to watch him arrive. Her mother had told her that babies entered the world with eyes squeezed shut and screaming, yet Richard had not. His just began to breathe quietly as his dark eyes roved around the room, looking around in – dare she say it? - curiosity. She hadn't been able to keep the surprise off of her face, but that surprise had been quickly replaced by tears of joy as her seven pound, one ounce baby boy had been swaddled in a blue blanket and placed in her arms.
She and her husband had taken their son home a few days later, and she tried to forget about his behavior at his birth, but there were other hints that Richard was no ordinary child. He was a quiet baby, only crying when he was truly in distress – for which she was grateful – but he seemed to spend most of his waking hours for his first few months carefully observing everything around him. He seemed much more attentive and focused than an ordinary baby. He sat up, stood, crawled, walked, and talked much earlier than expected, and several people told her that meant that Richard was very intelligent. She was delighted as was her husband, but still something about her toddler son bothered her.
Toddler toys did not interest him. Children's shows were ignored. He loved books and being read to, but he grew impatient if whomever was reading read too slowly or tried to get him to look at the pictures. His vocabulary and speech comprehension grew rapidly, and by his second birthday, he spoke clearly in long sentences. His vocabulary was also much larger than an average two year old's. Within a month of his birthday, she noticed that he was intently looking at his books, but he couldn't possibly be reading them. No child learned to read at such a young age, right? This time, she did no tell anyone what she had noticed. Who would believe her, and it wasn't like she could prove that he was actually reading, instead of just looking at the pictures, which was something that he had never enjoyed doing anyway. The proof came though, because by the time he was three, he was writing and correcting typos and spelling errors whenever he saw them.
It was clear to her by the time he started school that Richard was frightfully intelligent. Her husband liked to boast about his son's mind down at his golf club and other mothers spoke of how proud she must be to have such a smart son, but still... She loved him dearly, there was no doubt about that, but she could not understand him. She much preferred him when he acted like your average child, which he did on occasion. He would climb into his parents' bed when he had a nightmare or wasn't feeling well, but many of the normal childhood fears did not bother him. He was able to rationalize things astonishingly well, so fears of the dark, ghosts, and other nocturnal horrors did not faze him.
When the other children teased him about his intelligence, he was upset at first, and she felt guilty for being relieved that he was acting like a normal child, but that relief was short lived. Rather than making him want to hide his intelligence, his classmates' harassment seemed to only further his desire to stand out. Even after the teasing turned to bullying, which often caused him to come home with split lips and black eyes, he would not say who had hurt him.
"One day I will be better than them, Mama. While they're serving burgers and fries to tourists on the beach, I'll be somewhere, doing things that they can't dream of." The then seven year old Richard had spoken those two sentence with such firm conviction, that his mother was rendered speechless as the boy vanished into his room, which was filled wall to wall and floor to ceiling with books.
Books were Richard's only friends as he grew up, though it didn't seem to bother him. He had no patience for other children or most adults, believing them too "slow" for his tastes. Books, he said at the age of ten, could never lie to you, never turned their backs on you, were always there when you wanted them, didn't complain, and didn't care how many times they were used. His books were on a wide range of topics at first, and most were surprised to see such heavy subjects such as physics, quantum mechanics, and human anatomy being read by such a young boy, but a swift look from Richard's intense brown eyes always served to silence any comments before they were spoken.
During his schooling, Richard skipped three years ahead, and even then he was still bored. It was only her gentle reminder that he couldn't hope to be accepted to a university if he didn't finish his schooling that kept him from swearing it off completely. After that, he did what was required to keep his grades high and no more. No extra credit assignments, no extracurricular activities. His teachers tried to engage him in class, but it was plain that he did not care and saw school only as a stepping stone to what he wanted. Exactly what he wanted, she didn't know. He never spoke of what he wanted to be once he was grown. He graduated fourth in his class, and it was only then that his parents learned that he had been accepted to Yale. They could easily afford to send him there of course, but they had had no idea that he had even applied.
By then his book collection had become more refined, and it consisted mostly of various medical texts, so she was not surprised when he declared his desire to be a trauma surgeon. He breezed through medical as every bit as easily has he had his regular schooling and completed his internship in record time. He then moved on to his residency, and she had watched proudly as he progressed. He finished his fellowship at the age 35, and no sooner had he done so, then he had returned to his parents' house to tell her of a fabulous opportunity he had been offered. She had been thrilled for him at first – until he refused to tell her any of the details of the offer. Red flags had quickly risen when he said that he had been sworn to secrecy on the matter, and she had been alarmed when he said that was fully intending to accept the offer. She tried to talk him out of it, but he would not listen. He insisted that it was his chance to do something different, to really make a difference.
Make a difference in what exactly, he wouldn't say.
Barely a month later, she had received a letter from him, telling her that he had accepted the offer and thanking her for being such a wonderful mother to him. The letter also asked her to never look for him, and it carried an apology (Though she had the strangest feeling that he wasn't truly apologetic.) that they would likely never see each other again. Unable to believe that he highly intelligent son had done something so foolish, she had gone to his apartment to find it up for rent. The landlord told her that he had thrown away or sold most of his things, paid the fee for dropping out of his lease early, and vanished. No one, not his neighbors, not his coworkers at the hospital knew where he had gone. He had simply dropped out of sight. She had tried to report him missing, but the police had told her since he was over the age of 18, it was perfectly legal for him to vanish if he wished. So she had returned home, heartbroken as well as heartsick, worried to death that her boy, her baby, would end up lying dead in a ditch somewhere, and showed the letter to her husband. He had simply sighed in resignation and reminded her that Richard was a grown man, and it was his mistake to make. She had cried herself to sleep in her husband's arms that night and many other nights that followed.
They never saw or heard from Richard again. Every day she checked the mailbox, hoping to get a letter or at least a postcard, something to show that he was still among the living, and every day she was disappointed. He never called, never came for a visit, was never seen out and about. He was simply gone. Gone from her life, gone from the world.
Years went by, and Richard never returned home. She stopped checking the mailbox, stopped waiting for a phone call that she knew would never come. Instead she began to worry that he was lying in a shallow grave somewhere, where no one would find him. She began to have nightmares of police coming to the house to tell her that he had been murdered, or worse, she began to dream of his voice, sounding like he did when he was a little boy, calling out for her, crying that he was scared and all alone, but no matter how fast she ran towards his voice, he seemed to move away from her. She was never able to find him, and she always woke up from that one with tears trickling down her face.
And then, years later, when he would have been about to turn 45, a letter came. The envelope, which bore no return address, contained only a few sheets of paper. When she unfolded them, a name tag fell out and landed on the floor by her feet. When she picked it up, she was astonished to see Richard's face staring back at her from the little picture. The discolored white plastic bore the worlds "The Archaic" at the top, and below that was his name: Dr. Richard Eminiss, followed by his rank: Elevated, and his title: Chief Medical Officer. She sank into the nearest chair in shock as her legs grew weak underneath her. After a few minutes she was able to tear her gaze away from his face and look at the letter than came with it.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Eminiss,
I met your son. Dr. Richard Eminiss, eight years ago, when I came to investigate The Shelter, a large underground facility that was being utilized by The Archaic for their research. Some of the team had stumbled into a subterranean tomb and had released a dormant virus which proceeded to infect everyone in The Shelter, including your son. In an attempt to protect the others from himself, he secured himself in a small room, and it was there that I found him. He could not leave the room – he had sealed the door – but he was willing to kill himself to help me do what I needed to do. Despite my protests he cut off his own hand, so I could use his palm print to access the library. With no access to the medical wing, he bled to death from the injury. I was with him as he died, and he was at peace with himself.
I was able to get to the library, and eventually escape The Shelter. For the sake of the rest of the world, the facility has been destroyed and all traces of it obliterated, which sadly includes the bodies inside. Only myself and one or two others managed to get out; everyone else perished. I was a wreck once I made it home and barely able to think of the events that had transpired there without feeling panic and anxiety. I apologize for taking so long to write this letter, but I had to put my own demons to rest before I could think of Dr. Eminiss and his sacrifice. Your son died a hero, and in doing so, he saved my life. I only hope that this letter can ease your pain in some small way.
She put the letter down on her lap, and then slowly, painfully, began to cry. She allowed herself to grieve for her son.
Years later, she lay on her deathbed. Her husband had gone a few years before, and with Richard gone, she had nothing anchoring her to this world any longer. As she laid quietly in the darkened hospital room, she thought she saw one of the doctors standing in the open doorway, but then the person came closer.
He smiled warmly at her, looking like he did when she had seen him last at the age of 35. "Yes Mama, it's me." He offered her his hand, which she took, and he gently pulled her to her feet.
"But the letter told me that you died."
"I did, Mama. I died doing what I loved, and I don't regret for a moment trying to help Phillip."
She looked behind her then, at the bed, and noticed her body lying still upon the white sheets. She looked back at her son, and he smiled at her again as the hallway behind him was lost in a blaze of pure white light. She couldn't have stopped herself if she wanted to; she reached out and gathered him to her, holding him like she never wanted to let go. He smiled in amusement and returned the gesture before he gently pulled away and offered her his arm.
"Shall we go, Mama?"
She took his arm and smiled back at him. "Let's."
She then walked arm in arm into the light with Richard, with her son.