Morpheus Tales 16 edited by Adam Bradley. Zine review

MT16MORPHEUS TALES # 16 by Adam Bradley, Morpheus Tales Publishing, p/b, £3.50,

Reviewed by Sandra Scholes

When you think of a magazine you take into account all the things that make it interesting, letters, convention reports, articles, reviews, interior art and of course stories. Morpheus Tales gets rid of most of what I’ve mentioned in this particular issue and concentrates solely on the short stories. There are several advertisements for other magazines, but rather than feeling annoyed at them being there, I became interested in what kind of fiction might be within their pages. Ben Baldwin’s cover art is a great introduction to what readers can expect from the magazine’s stories. Dark horror fiction is the main staple of this one. Basically, if the cover art doesn’t scare you into opening the mag, nothing else will.

As the stories are the main draw with this magazine, ‘The Receipts’ by Paul Johnson Jovanovich and James Brooks is a diary excerpt of what one man’s shopping list looks like along with descriptions from his life. It all sounds normal right up until the end where there is a nasty surprise in store. It is written in a very tongue-in-cheek way and is humorous enough so it doesn’t appear to be too dark for its own good or take itself too seriously.

‘When the Letter Came’ by Matthew Acheson has a man waiting patiently for an important letter from an Aidaen McAllister, professor of Mathematics at the University of Maine in Orono about a puzzle he sent that he had managed to solve. The code had been written by his father, and in truth he didn’t want his son to decipher it, let alone get someone else to. The real horror comes when he and the professor go to retrieve the treasure mentioned in the code. The end of the story isn’t what you would expect – it’s much better. Like many of the tales in here, this one builds up to a horrific punch line that is deliciously cruel for the unaware reader.

It’s a harsh case of I told you so with ‘The Depredators’ Club’ by Deborah Walker. She has Molly Kroner who is one of the only female members of the club since it changed from being a male only club and Quentin Rance, the club’s master believes there are things out there that should not be stolen, but Molly thinks his statement is false, so he tells her that soon there is an item for her to steal, and if she can there is five-thousand pounds as payment. Others have failed trying to steal this particular “relic” but he feels she can find it and bring it back, while she hopes she can defy him. Molly doesn’t care about the artefact; all she cares about is the money. It is all that keeps her mind on the prize, but will she be discovered trying to steal it, or will something else prevent her from reaching her goal?

Seasons in the Abyss by Anthony Baynton is one man’s account of a year in what he thinks is Hell. The character is trapped in a dreadful place wandering around in search of the truth as to why he is there. Feeling like a stranded soul he thinks he is the only one around until he spots another stranded soul and also sees several people stuck in their own Hell. The nightmare landscape and visions he sees are a product of being in a coma for many months. By the time he gets near the end, his experiences are more morbid, and evil. It’s a harrowing tale but ultimately satisfying.

‘Crepuscular Beast’ by Sharon Baillie concerns a demon and its need to enter a human in order to control it. This demon wrestles with a human to gain control and once it does, it goes on the rampage with its trustee knife. The story, one among many short ones in here has a bleak outlook with no room for redemption or a happy ending as the demon gets what it desires. For an account of a possession, what happens here would probably be how it would work out, and as the demon is from Hell and Hell is seen as being a fiery place, I suppose it would be normal for a person possessed to feel whatever was inside them burning their flesh.

Each story is as unsettling as the last and while some are horrific, others are gory and devilish. There are some that concentrate on the reader’s fear of the dark, others of death and like the stories, the artwork varies from being computer rendered or drawn in ink on paper. Both show their striking effectiveness.