Morpheus Tales #23. Zine review

Morpheus Tales #23Morpheus Tales #23, Morpheus Tales Publishing, A4, £5.00/Digest, £4.50, eBook, £1.93,

Reviewed by David Brzeski

I’ve been meaning to check out an issue of this magazine for a long time now. Apparently, Christopher Fowler calls it “edgy and dark”. Judging from the first story in this issue, I’d call it downright peculiar!

Imagine a version of ‘The Twilight Zone’ which could only exist in a David Lynchean dream sequence. Charlotte Johnson’s ‘The Body Bank’ tells us of a woman who needs a kidney for her son. She finds an advertisement for a drive-through body bank in the ‘National Enquirer’. Allison, the manager of this business is the sort of person you might see featured on ‘Watchdog’, if they broadcast it in the land of nightmares!

In ‘Double Ganger’, E.B. Hoight gives us the tragic story of a young boy, who simply tried to be rid of his evil doppelgänger. It’s very effectively told in the form of the psychiatric case-notes of six year old Noel Marcum.

I’m notoriously hard to please when it comes to flesh-eating zombie stories. Frankly, they’re my least favourite sub-division of the horror genre. So it was no huge surprise that ‘The Passenger’, by Edward A. Taylor, didn’t do a great deal for me. It wasn’t awful, just not my cup of tea.

Alexander Williamson’s ‘Angus’ 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 he’s a total prick, no, it’s because he cares about them. It’s an interesting and original idea.

‘Equilibrioception Revoked’ 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, it’s the ‘Twilight Zone’, by way of ‘Tales From the Crypt’. I liked this one a lot.

In ‘Ancestral Sins’, 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, it’s nothing compared to what a vengeful fate has in store for Bernice. “You reap what you sow” is taken to the ultimate extreme in this short, but chilling tale.

Next up is ‘Squatters’, by Todd Outcalt, in which a rancher finds himself in an altercation with the titular squatters, in what would be a fairly ordinary western tale—if it wasn’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 ‘The Dink, The Donk, and the Poo Pile’, by Douglas J. Ogurek is it. This is the inevitable “WTF?” story. Part nightmare, part acid trip, part irritable bowel syndrome, this is weirdness writ large.

‘And Then There Was Only Us’, 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. ‘I Know You’, by Shaun AJ Hamilton gives us a peek into the mind of a stalker—kidnapper—rapist. Excellently written and truly chilling.

Most of the anthologies, collections and magazines that I’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 wouldn’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.