4 of 5 stars.
Dreams can be the medium of the subconscious or the supernatural. Here, it might even be a blend of the two as an Old World folkloric creature, the kelpie, appears in an Atlanta woman’s feverish, homoerotic dreams. With the every ounce of the landscape screaming metaphor for suppressed sexuality, this first person narrative proves ultimately unreliable for herself and the reader.
The speaker lives in an inherited mansion among many grand old houses that surround and hide an abandoned park in Atlanta. At the heart of the park is the unkempt very shallow pond, brown and fishless. A body of a young thug is found beside the bridge of the pond, drowned–despite the shallow water. Horse hoofs mar the bank by the body.
A mysterious bridle is stowed away under blankets in the attic of the old house. Scottish folklore suggests that a kelpie can alternate between horse and human form unless their bridle is taken from them, trapping them in place and form.
In a series of fever dreams, the woman finds herself naked on the park bridge overlooking the dead body as a likewise naked nymph beckons her to the water, seducing her, asking for the bridle . . . In other dreams, she’s riding a horse invisibly through the streets of Atlanta . . .
This tale appears in Street Magicks edited by Paula Guran. I received this new anthology from Netgalley. The short story was originally published in The Ammonite Violin & Others [Subterranean Press, 2006]. I’ve consistently enjoyed Kiernan’s tales having previously reviewed:
“The Bone’s Prayer”–3 stars
“The Cats of River Street (1925)”–5 stars
“The Mermaid of the Concrete Ocean”–4 stars
“The Transition of Elizabeth Haskings”–5 stars
[Check out my other reviews here.]