Reviewing a magazine at a book review site? It’s a first for me, but a welcome one, as the people who write for and publish the UK’s Morpheus Tales (click to order) have a truly first-rate horror magazine that contains some of today’s author’s best spine-tingling short stories. The magazine is quarterly, so the last issue, #14, came out this past October, 2011.

So, what’s in store for you when you purchase Issue #14? There are 11 short stories in it, some of which are accompanied by very cool illustrations. I’ll briefly mention each, to give you some idea about what you’re in store for when you purchase this high-quality horror mag.

1.) “The Cherry Tree” by David Lear opens Issue #14. We all go a little bit CRAZY sometime. This short story is about what happens when the ordinarily kind and pleasant family man, Ted, who lives on Thirty Chimes Avenue, gets drunk. When he’s drunk, he acts very differently from when he’s sober, and he doesn’t take it very well when his wife, Lavinia, decides to leave him in the middle of the night. What does the cherry tree in his backyard have to do with the story? You’ll just have to read it to find out!

2.) “Misplaced Loyalties” is by Graeme Stevenson and is illustrated by Robert Leija. It’s about one of the things that can go oh, so wrong (or right, depending on your point of view) when the genetically altered Puck, mischievous as his Shakespearian counterpart but in a deadly, “I’m going to slaughter anyone who tries to stop me” way, proves his worth during a training exercise. Too bad, so sad, for anyone who gets the idea he can be stopped.

3.) “Souvenir” by Brockton McKinney tells what one terrible part I’m sure we all can relate to about vacations occurs to the characters of the story, namely, someone gets the idea to recite strange spells from a mysterious book, not knowing that what he’s saying involves the darkest type of black magic. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? It tends to put a damper on the rest of one’s vacation, especially when demonic possession results.

4.) “Nights of the Living Dead,” is the fourth tale in the issue, and it’s by David Hayes and is illustrated by Vladimir Petkovic. It’s one of my favorite short stories in this issue, as it deals with an important controversial political issue, abortion, and also because…well…there are zombies in it. The illustration at the end of it by Vladimir Petrovic is pretty awesome, also, reminding me of some throwback horror magazines. It’s a piece of graphic excellence. Karen, the main protagonist of this tale, learns an important lesson: Trying to escape the Living Dead by hiding in a room called the Red Room where aborted late-term fetuses are stored until they’re picked up and removed by a medical waste company is not the best plan in the world.

5.) “An Interview With Geraldine,” by Neil John Buchanon has it all–sex, sex with aliens, dimensional rifts that open up as a result of sex with aliens, and people who get into sex with aliens and benefit by having their consciousnesses expanded and sharing a Hive Mind sort of mentality. Did I mention the “sex with aliens” part?

6.) “Teeth,” by Axelle Carolyn is a story you can really sinky oyur teeth into. Damn; there goes my New Year’s Resolution not to make any stupid puns! Oh, well–there’s always next year to look forward to….But, seriously, it’s a tale about when the Tooth Fairy goes bad, and brings the worst nightmares of eleven-year-old Jack to life when she decides she requires a bit more than the cavity-riddled tooth he leaves her. His fear of dentists seems not so bad in comparison….

7,) “The Final Toll,” by Matt Mok is a great story about what happens when a werewolf epidemic hits a small town. Of course, no one wants to believe that the town’s dead are rising up and becoming werewolves, in turn coming back to attack, kill, and spread the epidemic yet further. Who would believe an alcoholic funeral director, like Morgan Charles, when he says he saw a werewolf running out of the funeral parlor one night? The tolling of a church’s bell keeps the beasts away from the narrator for a while; but, how long can it hold them at bay, when their chief prey items–people–become more and more scarce?

8.) “Soulshredder,” by Lee Clark Zumbe is a great Sword & Sorcery tale about what happens when a mystical sword starts taking possession of whomever possesses it. It’s just as Thoreau said, paraphrased: “One’s possessions can end up possessing you, especially the dark magical ones, like swords that are called Soulshredders.” Look it up; that’s what he said. Ghallard the Virtuous kills the despotic King Huy with the best of intentions in mind, to get rid of an evil and tyranous king and take over in his place. But, you know what they say about good intentions… they make for pretty cool horror stories, that’s waht.

9.) “The Last Walk” is by Diane Bocco. Salem is the place of the infamous witch trials, but it’s also known as (in this short story, anyway) the birthplace of a legend about a mysterious man who wanders a certain road, in search of souls to steal. The evil dude’s name is Epah, and he won’t be freed from wandering the road until he’s taken 1,001 souls…but, is freeing him really such a good idea? Read the story to find out….

10.) “A Silence Between Two Waves of the Sea,” by Robert Sagiro and illustrated by the talented Ash Areceneaux is a story about longing, and childhood memories, and wanting to recapture a magical moment when Mermaids were real. Isn’t it ridiculous how silly our imagination sometimes works? But, what if one’s childhood encounter with Mermaids wasn’t a fantasy, but was very real? And, what would happen if, as an adult, you tried to recapture this memory? Read Sagiro’s story to discover why reliving your past might not be always such a great idea.

11.) “The Quill of Eternal Damnation,” by Adnane Rahane has such a sweet, innocent title, doesn’t it? The quill part, anyway; how can a simple item like a quill be something that can result in one’s eternal damnation? Perhaps if one day, you found out that you were not the author of your own llfe story, and the author of short stories yourself, but you were actually merely a character in someone else’s story, a simple quill might not seem to be so simple any longer. And, when a hideous monster is at the door, a cross between a werewolf and a snake-like reptile, such a magical quill might even prove to be the one thing that can either save or damn your soul.

That sums up the 11 tales in Morpeus Tales Issue #14. Get the entire issue–it’s chock full of tales of horror that you will both enjoy reading, and which will haunt your nightmares.

–Douglas R. Cobb–