Reviewed by David Brzeski
Iâ€™ve been meaning to check out an issue of this magazine for a long time now. Apparently, Christopher Fowler calls it â€œedgy and darkâ€. Judging from the first story in this issue, Iâ€™d call it downright peculiar!
Imagine a version of â€˜The Twilight Zoneâ€™ which could only exist in a David Lynchean dream sequence. Charlotte Johnsonâ€™s â€˜The Body Bankâ€™ tells us of a woman who needs a kidney for her son. She finds an advertisement for a drive-through body bank in the â€˜National Enquirerâ€™. Allison, the manager of this business is the sort of person you might see featured on â€˜Watchdogâ€™, if they broadcast it in the land of nightmares!
In â€˜Double Gangerâ€™, E.B. Hoight gives us the tragic story of a young boy, who simply tried to be rid of his evil doppelgÃ¤nger. Itâ€™s very effectively told in the form of the psychiatric case-notes of six year old Noel Marcum.
Iâ€™m notoriously hard to please when it comes to flesh-eating zombie stories. Frankly, theyâ€™re my least favourite sub-division of the horror genre. So it was no huge surprise that â€˜The Passengerâ€™, by Edward A. Taylor, didnâ€™t do a great deal for me. It wasnâ€™t awful, just not my cup of tea.
Alexander Williamsonâ€™s â€˜Angusâ€™ is the tale of a moderately successful rock star, who behaves so badly to everyone he meets that he has no friends, or long-term woman in his life. Not because heâ€™s a total prick, no, itâ€™s because he cares about them. Itâ€™s an interesting and original idea.
â€˜Equilibrioception Revokedâ€™ is about as strange as the title suggests. Adam Millard gives us the story of Daniel, a thief on the run, and what happens to him when he enters the dark and mysterious village of Gristhorpe. This time, itâ€™s the â€˜Twilight Zoneâ€™, by way of â€˜Tales From the Cryptâ€™. I liked this one a lot.
In â€˜Ancestral Sinsâ€™, by Scathe Meic Beorh, little Bernice Hathaway has done something truly awful. So awful that her father sets her a very harsh punishment. Harsh though it might be, itâ€™s nothing compared to what a vengeful fate has in store for Bernice. â€œYou reap what you sowâ€ is taken to the ultimate extreme in this short, but chilling tale.
Next up is â€˜Squattersâ€™, by Todd Outcalt, in which a rancher finds himself in an altercation with the titular squatters, in what would be a fairly ordinary western taleâ€”if it wasnâ€™t for the fact that the ranch was on the outer planet of Betelgeuse.
I guessed early on in my reading of this magazine that there would have to be one, and â€˜The Dink, The Donk, and the Poo Pileâ€™, by Douglas J. Ogurek is it. This is the inevitable â€œWTF?â€ story. Part nightmare, part acid trip, part irritable bowel syndrome, this is weirdness writ large.
â€˜And Then There Was Only Usâ€™, by Kenneth Buff brings us back to more normal territory. That is if you consider a tale of a time-travelling, alternate reality hopping couple, who kidnap their alternate selves for S&M sex games before killing them is normal.
The final story is my favourite in the magazine. â€˜I Know Youâ€™, by Shaun AJ Hamilton gives us a peek into the mind of a stalkerâ€”kidnapperâ€”rapist. Excellently written and truly chilling.
Most of the anthologies, collections and magazines that Iâ€™ve read recently have tended to be thematic in nature. Morpheus Tales, on the other hand, seems to be more like a travelling freakshow of misfit stories that have banded together for their mutual protection. The reader is invited to come in and look, but I wouldnâ€™t advise prodding and poking, for I have a suspicion that they might bite.
As is usual with this magazine, there is a free supplement, with reviews and articles, which can be read, or downloaded (in pdf form) from the website. The supplement for issue #23 includes a very good piece by Simon Marshall-Jones on horror fiction vs. real-life horror.