Milton turned the package over and over in his hands. There was no return address on it, no postage, yet his home address had been neatly written on the front in block capitals. It must have been posted by hand, which meant he wouldn’t be able to trace it through the postal service or a courier; damn!
He carefully pulled open the brown padded envelope and checked inside. There was no letter, no explanation of who sent this or why. There were just two videocassettes.
Milton tipped them out into his hands and examined them both. The first one looked homemade; a plain white sleeve covered the videocassette itself. He turned it over, and found writing on the sleeve in black marker, the same handwriting as the envelope.
'Watch me last'.
That’s all. Milton concluded that this was in place of a letter. Some form of explanation as to why he’d been sent these videos. Fine, all right, he’d play along.
The second appeared to be a movie, just an ordinary videocassette of a movie. The off white cover with the image of a face, or a skull, pushing through gave away nothing about the movie other than perhaps it was of the horror genre.
'Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners.'
Milton had never heard of it and if he was completely honest, found the tag line, 'No Rest for the Wicked', slightly clichéd. He turned the video box over in his hand and read the back. It had been made in 1996, so this year then. It was a movie about a man who could see ghosts. Milton couldn’t help letting out a small chuckle. It was probably Benny at the Bureau who had posted this through his door.
He remembered chatting to Benny months ago about how horror movies never get the details right. He’d studied cults, sects and the paranormal and he remembered Benny laughing with him about ghost movies.
Murderous rampage, evil spirits, blah blah blah. Milton scanned the rest of the box for details. He didn’t recognise most of the cast, but he was half sure he’d heard of Michael J. Fox; apparently a good actor.
Why not? He had nothing planned for today. The briefing for his next assignment wasn’t for two days; he had time to watch them both. He’d play along and watch ‘The Frighteners’ first just as instructed.
Milton walked from the hallway of his small apartment to his main living area, a sort of living room and kitchen in one, and turned on his TV. He pulled the cassette out of its box, pushed it into his VCR and sat back to watch the movie.
It had been nearly five hours since Milton sat down to watch what he assumed was a typical horror movie. Instead he’d found himself watching… himself. He was in the movie. Not a version of him, not an actor playing him, actually him. Michael J. Fox had played someone called Frank Bannister but as soon as Milton has seen himself on screen he had paid little attention to the details of the plot.
It had not been a flattering insight into his life. The movie managed to reveal several aspects of Milton’s life and… body… that he would rather had remained private. His scars, his aversion to women shouting, even his… uncomfortable condition. This was all laid bare for everyone to see, and of all things, this was done for comedic effect.
The worse, the very worse, thing though was the end. Right at the end was his death. There on the screen was his death at the hands of a crazy woman. His head was blown clean off; Milton had vomited down himself at the sight.
His head was still spinning from all the thoughts and questions this 'movie' had brought, when Milton finally stood up and pushed the second video into his VCR. He wasn’t sure what he had been expecting at the time but it sure as hell wasn’t what he saw.
The video had offered no indication as to who had sent it. It simply started by showing interviews with various people. Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor and other people whose names drifted out of Milton’s head.
They talked about the creation of 'The Frighteners', the filming process, all rubbish in Milton’s opinion because how could this be a work of fiction when he was in it? It had to be a trick. He kept waiting for a glimpse of a work colleague, some indication what this was a cruel trick being played by some of the other agents Milton didn’t get along with. He had long since dismissed Benny as the sender. Benny wouldn’t do something like this; he was too nice a guy.
Finally an interview had started which had made Milton nearly choke. It was him, only it wasn’t him. The words Jeffery Combs had appeared and Peter Jackson, the director, started talking about who this actor was. Milton hadn’t really been interested until he got his first look at Jeffrey Combs.
It was him. It even said in the caption at the bottom of the screen 'Jeffrey Combs, Agent Dammers'. This man, was him?
Five hours later Milton was fuming. Having watched the interview with Combs to the end, the anger slowly building with every sentence that came out of Jeffrey Combs and Peter Jackson’s mouths, Milton sat still as a statue on the sofa.
He wasn’t sure what he was going to do. He just knew he hated Jeffrey Combs and Peter Jackson. He hated them with such passion he was afraid if he tried to stand he’d pass out. It was their fault, all their fault. Every detail of his life, every horrific event he had had to endure over the years, was cooked up by these men.
His haircut, which he’d never given much thought to, was dreamt up by Combs. In his own words the actor, wait, was he an actor if he was Milton? Such ideas made Milton’s head ache, so he pushed them aside and focused on the hate, the rage and the little details they were kind enough to put into him to make him more… amusing. Quirky as they probably saw it.
Combs had said he’d gone to the library and deliberately found books on young Hitler. Hitler, of all people. Milton hated Hitler, all the man stood for and the terrible things he did. The thought that his haircut was based on this vile man was enough to convince Milton to shave his head. He stood, shakily, and walked as best he could to his bathroom.
Carefully he took the pair of scissors out of his medicine cabinet and started to cut away the hair from the top of his head. He knew he could shave it bald later and quietly cursed Jeffrey Combs for thinking he’d want to look like a fascist or that he was one.
As he carried on cutting his hair off Milton stared at his ears, another idea of Combs. All his life he’d been picked on for his ears sticking forward. He’d even thought of having them pinned back on more than one occasion. He was bullied at school, and even now as an adult; if he got into an argument with an ass, they’d point out his ears as an insult.
Combs thought they’d make the 'character' look geeky and awkward. Yes, very well thought out Mr. Combs. Milton remembered all too well being a geeky, awkward and lonely child.
Once his hair was short enough to shave off Milton swapped his scissors for his razor. He held it over his head, determined but found that he was unable to steady his hands. A loud sob filled his bathroom as he threw the razor into the sink with frustration. Everything he was, everything, was because of these men.
He stared into the mirror, into his dark black eyes. They were a gift from Peter Jackson. Jackson had wanted him to have dark, black, beady, billiard balls of eyes; eyes that were alive and yet dead as Combs had put it in the interview. Yet another reason he’d been picked on as a child. He didn’t have ‘normal’ eyes and his classmates had teased him for looking scary. As he’d grown into a teenager no girl wanted to date a boy with ‘freaky black’ eyes.
Milton wondered if these men knew what they were doing when they planned these little traits. He doubted it, but it didn’t excuse them for what he’d been through.
Both Combs and Jackson played a part in the most terrible features that Milton had to live with. Combs was responsible for the scarring and Jackson for… his condition.
Apparently Combs had been quite particular about which tattoos and scarring appeared on Milton’s chest. Good for him. Had he even thought for a second what those would feel like when they were happening? Worse still, Combs had seemed perversely proud in the interview of how much input he got into creating 'it'. That was how Milton’s chest was referred to, 'it'. Only his chest wasn’t an 'it', it was his chest. It was part of him, his flesh that had been inked, cut and burnt. For fucks sake it was Jeffrey Combs’ fault he had no nipples and was ashamed to even look at himself undressed.
Finally his… condition. Combs had laughed during the interview when he talked about Jackson’s idea for the 'butt ring', as they called it. He talked about all the trouble they’d gone to finding a ring of the right size. How considerate of them. Had Peter Jackson or Jeffrey Combs stopped to think about how a person might acquire a chronic haemorrhoidal condition?
Milton felt the worse part was they had. Or at least Combs had, as he talked, and laughed, about Milton being uptight and having been in many hideous cults and sects. Combs acknowledged that 'some pretty damaging things' would have happened to Milton.
Milton couldn’t help wondering if Jackson and Combs had the first idea of what those 'damaging things' might have been. He wandered back into the living area and slumped down onto his worn sofa. It was soft and one of the few places he could sit comfortably without his 'butt ring'.
Tears were threatening to roll down Milton’s face, but he successfully pushed them back. His mind started to wander back to one of the first times a 'damaging thing' had happened to him, and as soon as the image had fully formed in his mind the tears fell.
It had been 1974 and still newly qualified for solo undercover work and wet behind the ears, Milton had been sent to work undercover in the cult, Children of Lucifer. The assignment had only meant to last six months; it had lasted three years.
The new recruits of CoL weren’t expected to do much in terms of rituals and such, so for nearly a year Milton had been farming, making building repairs, drinking goat’s blood and slowing gaining enough trust to work up the cult hierarchy. After that he’d been able to observe some of the more guarded rituals and felt confident that he’d be able to leave and give his report to the Bureau.
Unfortunately things had not gone well. Rumours of an infiltrator filtered through the cult, and while Milton knew these had been started as a way of maintaining control and further isolating the members from the outside world, he couldn’t very well say that to his fellow ‘children’ or he would have certainly been exposed as an agent.
Every member was expected to prove his or her loyalty through various acts. One night Milton had heard the screams, from both men and women, and suddenly his stomach had sunk. It rapidly became clear to him what some of these tests were all about, another way to control and isolate the cult members. It was all too common for cult leaders to use sex as a way of dominating certain members. Some would feel honoured and blessed by the act, but judging by the screams, others were simply being forced under the illusion of a test of allegiance.
It had been the following night when Milton was dragged from his bed for his 'test'. The leader, a man named Louis Hall, had droned on about Milton, or Jake as they thought he was called, having been chosen for a special test. He was going to prove himself in the eyes of Lucifer as a true follower; all he had to do was give himself over completely.
The heavy bodyguards of Hall had been dismissed and Milton knew all he had to do was endure. Just lie there, that’s all. If he struggled the guards would be called back, hold him down and it would happen anyway. If he struggled he’d been tossed out on his ass the next morning and nearly two years of work would have been for nothing.
So Milton lay there as Hall, a portly but charismatic man in his fifties, did what he wanted with him. Yes it hurt, yes it was humiliating and yes, when he finally wrote up his report for the FBI a year later, this encounter was omitted, but Milton endured.
That had not been the first ‘damaging thing’, and it was not externally damaging, those came later, but it was damaging all the same. Milton knew some of his first scars were internal, both emotionally and in terms of…
The 'performance' with Hall was not the first or last time Milton would be called upon to prove his loyalty to a cult or sect by simply 'taking it'. Milton knew it was common for leaders to humiliate members they saw as threats and to mark their territory when it came to others.
For his first assignment as part of the 'Manson Family' Milton had been a sex slave for months. They had inked and assaulted him, but he took it. It was his duty to his country. Then came CoL and after them a cult simply named Holy. In Holy Milton had been forced to endure nearly two years of sexual torture. As with CoL, when the reports were all complied at the end, Milton had omitted several details of his time with the cult.
It had all built up of course and by the time Milton was at an age where the leaders weren’t interested in doing that to him, the damage had been done. Bureau doctors, who had forced him to tell them the truth, told him it was because of internal scarring. Trauma to his rectum, as well as infection, had caused the condition according to the doctors.
However, now Milton knew the truth. Peter Jackson and Jeffrey Combs had caused the rape, the infections and the haemorrhoids. Milton took a deep breath and made a promise to himself.
He was going to make them pay. If the video had gotten to him then there had to be a way to get to them and Milton was determined to find it.