“Brief History of Horn City”, by Bryson Newhart

Sep 20th, 2008 | By | Category: Poetry


By establishing a team of engineers within the city limits, each confined to a mattress surrounded by a high seawall, the mattresses connected by a network of bridges designed to encroach upon individual private properties, allowing the engineers, whenever they were awake, to patrol specific homes and bungalows to ensure compliance with mandatory nature displays, the earliest offices of Regulation hoped to develop a new set of standards for the enforcement of community landscaping. In instances where compliance was less than ideal, experts would provide botanical obedience training. The pleasant surprise of an engineer outside one’s window helped to inspire and promote the growth of patriotic vegetables to be served during underwater holidays. Adolescents were encouraged by a smiling man with a clipboard to plant and care for a cactus, the experience of which allowed the young adults to shine as individuals with emerging personalities. The possibilities for success were endless. Always surrounded by mosquitoes, the engineers’ brave work was never finished, and thus it was understood that they deserved the best. Their daily enforcement of burgeoning floral and mud projects was understood to be a miracle. When a citizen saw an engineer pass above his home, it was considered a special day and a small red flag was fiercely waved.


In the early days of Horn City, before spiritualism was banned, we took our religion seriously. People wore matching belts that connected them together, walking the streets in wide pious chains. The galvanized ligaments linked a congregation’s nervous systems, transmitting everyone’s emotion to the group—generally anger. If you came to visit our city and we didn’t like you, we killed you. The method depended on the size and shape of your footsteps and how long they could hold water, as well as the strength of the sun that day, mostly employing hatchets or stones or hammers. Such ceremonies of human weakness defined our ancestors’ humanity as they eagerly set it aside to mash up visitors into large ambrosial pies that were happily consumed by the growing population of prisoners.

During the holidays our citizens retreated, as per their training in school, to underwater kiosks called stores, which were yearly erected out of waterproof animal hides by the merchant priests. Time and again, our loyal citizens followed the call of the heavenly bodiless hand, whose pointing finger dropped below the clouds to indicate that it was time to enter the familiar underwater temples within which every citizen relinquished his yearly profits to the merchant priests. This in exchange for being baptized by buckets of canal water, after which the citizen was given a virtue shot and sent to the crying room.

The ritual was based on the unforgettable saga of the Wayzgoose, our secular God and city founder, as well as the inventor of the first TV, a large man who is said to have lounged one afternoon on a folding chair surrounded by a moat that he dug himself, there to remain for endless hours stomping his feet and lamenting that there wasn’t anything good to watch. To create the first programs, new laws were made to be broken, giving us more and more infrActors to place in the many shows that we still enjoy today. A statue in the city landfill commemorates the day, which is called Great Truth Day.

Visitors entering our underwater city during the holy months were greeted by the spectacle of an empty city that appeared to be abandoned, but which had merely moved into its time of prayer beneath the murky canals.


If you made it to our city and survived, you may have wished to see our museums, which were confiscated from witches who maintained them to appease their gods in a prior age when sorcerers lived beneath the ground. Possessing morose bodies of incredible and disproportionate length, containing many crooks and turnings, it is said that the witches were often mistaken for roots. They used their long arms to grab animals and eat them. However, many living creatures were spared, and these were kept as part of collections that could still be viewed as recently as yesterday.

Examples included the Bovine Platypus, whose stubborn incurious face was impossible to entertain, even when shot full of arrows, and whose cleverly stitched-together beaver tail was always slapping with extraordinary anger; the Woofen-Poof, which appeared to be made of metal and stood between piles of ancient food, slowly starving in confusion over having to choose; and the Petrified Man or Knickerbocker, whose awkward stony movements were almost imperceptible due to his deathly fear, no matter how much people teased him, of moving out from underneath the leaking limestone that had been dripping on his head for years.

Perhaps the most popular museum was the Temple of Health, which also served as the city’s hospital due to its wide array of tranquilizing cribs, electric shock crowns, and blood sluices. Within the temple was The Museum of Spectacle Nuisance wherein visitors could stumble around wearing pinhole eyeglasses and other complicated gadgets that affixed to the face. The museums were confiscated from witches in the era of the Wayzgoose when a team of pioneers floated them out of their underground hiding places on subterranean rivers in large paddle boats. The museums were then reburied in their original locations. Apparently the witches were not pleased and proclaimed, “Our sinuous arms will get you.”


In accordance with the city’s wishes to democratically facilitate the opening of a citizen’s heart, which contained his or her flicker of spirit in the geologic passage of time, love worked on a kind of lottery. At a randomly appointed age, each child received the small round charity of an emotional ping-pong ball, or bingo ball. The Ladies Auxiliary Fire Department, official timekeepers and archeologists of the heart, then reset their stopwatches as the blushing children raced against time to the Tomb of the Unknown Lover, where they cast their balls into a large churning love commode, or Bingo Benefactor. Once flushed by an eager man named Logo, the balls entered a large clear box made of ice and filled with hungry scavenger fish that promptly consumed them, at which point, Logo stepped onto his stone tool, a kind of prehistoric manual jackhammer, and proceeded to jump up and down on the hollow block until it exploded in a spray of fish and light.

The bingo-stuffed scavengers were then fried in a patriotic sauce and delivered on plates of stone. Each love child cracked open his or her fish and received the ball that corresponded to his lifelong mate. In the event that destiny contrived to return to a heartful child his own tendered ball, the unfortunate boy or girl was subject to the Bingo Alien Act and sent to the Mountains of Self Love. There, he or she was assigned a Personal Guilt Mountain on which to spend the rest of his beleaguered days pushing El Bingo Grande up and down the slope while avoiding the giant swinging Paddles of Regret.

Meanwhile, the rest of the shy paired children engaged in various dating techniques, among them Pollen Analysis, in which spiders extracted pollen from the skin to help yield information about a target’s past; Astronomical Dating, in which teams of nervous lovers stacked themselves into a human Stonehenge; and Fission Track, a technique allowing couples to bombard their personalities until they split into smaller and smaller fragments of themselves, leaving behind a distinctive trail of coupling.
Once married, most couples booked passage aboard the Flat Liner, a cruise ship that catered to extended honeymoons from which most were rarely heard from again.


In ancient times before the moon was ignited to prolong the day, transportation was confined to simple walking and performance motions that took place in thickly populated outlying areas designed to attract polite and determined people into mammoth forward-propelling swarms. Transit was considered extremely dangerous and was among the most audacious things that an individual might accomplish in his or her life. Each morning, large groups of lumbering people were drawn like hiving bees to the gates of unscheduled locations called Stations of Origin where they would participate in hazardous internal combustion and mobility gestures that included walking on the legs and feet; synchronized land swimming; the Horse, a galloping motion employed in advance of the Nervous Breakdown; and the Molecule, in which citizens moved in vast unreliable structures orbited by spinning electron individuals that helped push everyone along.

Due to a lack of technology and all that attends it, efficiency and destination were of little concern to the smiling commuters drawn as if by the smell of day to the bright steaming highways and obstacle courses commissioned by the city founders. Within the dangerous enclosed battlefields of any given Station of Origin, groups and individuals engaged in myriad acts of transportation could usually be seen, even at the end of the day, to snake and ratchet in circles, sometimes rolling or bouncing off the walls, endlessly campaigning in intricate configurations until the last diffusing rays of sun indicated that it was time to march home for their confused daily heaps of mollusk rations.

It was not until the advent of technology applied to each performance motion that transportation evolved beyond the Stations of Origin, spilling from the outlying areas and inward to the center of the city, and thereby drowning out the quiet streets. With the introduction of technology into each Station of Origin, groups of commuters worked together and eventually broke down the walls that had heretofore confined them. Solitary walkers known as Pedestrians became equipped with solar sails, and as the sun expanded into its powers, they rose with outstretched arms on a breeze of photons, and with looks of astonishment on their lofting faces, sailed like kites over the walls and into the city, bewildered by their sudden lack of purpose in the newly surmountable air, their sails reflecting the streets below. Many died.

In the meantime, synchronized land swimmers and teams of molecules devised a collection of power saws, battering rams, and implements for digging in the earth, and spurred on by the unintelligible curses of the Wayzgoose, sawed and battered the fences, sometimes burrowing beneath them, creating corridors that would later serve as tunnels for personal transit coffins. As each group moved beyond its Station of Origin and into the city at large, the notion of transportation for its own sake was lost. With commuters no longer confined to their noisy staging pens thanks to technology, the need for destinations arose and with them more efficient transit. Transportation became a means to an end, a concept with a start and a finish, and destinations were redefined as Employment Centers within which the growing need for constant activity came to define a variety of jobs and services that were accepted as necessary and not just superfluous.

Among the first jobs was that of the engineer, whose wide body and broadly defined role continues today. With the explosion of ceaseless employment, the moon was set fire to extend the day. Stations of Origin were converted into sporting and recreation centers where the early citizens spent their spare time as decreed by law, defining their extra-employment identity through the Spectacles of Recreation.


With the birth of destinations for which it was quickly deemed necessary to devise activities to justify compulsive daily acts of transportation, teams of engineers were created to serve as architects for the various work to be performed day and night without surcease in the shining new locations called Employment Centers. Among the first jobs for which briskly transporting citizens were conscripted was the creation of a wooden cow, which was to be assembled atop the first Employment Center, an awkwardly constructed building known as the Brain. This crude edifice consisted of many ramps and staircases that led to a creaking interior whose haphazard and inscrutable corridors were always stuffed with blundering workers. The Brain was perceived by the earliest commissions to coalesce into a vague and distant structure of thought, a kind of architectural consciousness, and thus it was to be graced with the Gilded Heifer, a wooden cow decorated with spray paint. Once completed, the Heifer was to be mated with a bull by the city’s first gynecologist, a blind vintner.

After slathering the bull with healing herbs and piercing him with hundreds of arrows, the inebriated gynecologist instructed the young builders to throw the Heifer from the roof, which instantly rendered them both infertile. After this scandal, it was decided by a new institution called Regulation that employment should evolve not just at the hands of engineers and appointed experts, but with ideas from the public. Hence, the very reason the public is now considered such a great contributor to its own identity and inimitable character.

Early ideas for employment arose from the act of transportation itself. Among the first inventions, the Wonder Wheel, or Bluffer, a heavy disk of pine that was worn around the neck. The edges of the wheel, located at arm’s length, provided a destination for the clamoring hands, which were frequently seen to grip the circumference of the thing as though trying to tear it free. Other forms of employment included carrying a balloon in order to contain the shape of one’s breath, praying to the Wayzgoose while suspended by the toes, the use of pneumatic sprayers to scatter clouds or groom dirt, and the manufacture of tiny cameras to be mounted on falling flakes of snow. These occupations gradually evolved into the great variety of jobs we see today, most notably Sleep Work. In employment centers that catered to health, professionals sat in hanging baskets that spun at dizzying speeds and paper cones were set fire in their ears.


With employment came dissatisfaction and haste, which persisted in constant need of Regulation. Before the television dimensions were discovered, Regulation enforced civility by means of a committee of engineers of courtesy and cooperation who worked at Friendship Centers throughout the city. A Friendship Center, which resembled a wigwam, was designed to receive an unwitting stranger thrust through the door against his will. The citizen was immediately dumped in a clay chair by a man with a tight unwavering smile who would jerk his thumb in front of the citizen’s face, forcing him or her to acknowledge that the sum of collected people with their tiny bony arms is greater than any one of its parts, and that by inhaling, you immediately inhale chaos, billions of molecules of chaos. Lifesize puppets were used to demonstrate, moving to a complicated foxtrot.

Strangers were encouraged from birth to view each other as though looking into a mirror, and to react to their reflections accordingly. Once seated in a Friendship Center, the alarming puppet host scanned a person’s past using a series of complicated gestures mirrored by assistants wearing box-like hats, who appeared to be attempting to solve imaginary Rubik’s cubes. Invariably, the host would find an imbalance in the citizen, proving his or her life to be littered from birth with inattention and loud breathing, at which point the puppet show would begin and the lifesize figures would demonstrate enactments of civil deportment, such as the greeting before sex, which involved inhaling beneath the arms while disdainfully rolling the eyes; the two-fisted windmill of public greeting used in city parks by the elderly; and the proper technique for licking one’s lips while kneeling behind a neighbor whose back is turned. Citizens were further coached in the furious wisdom of an endless mechanical chitchat before being shown how to coax a stubborn donkey into wearing a pair of aviator glasses. The newly civilized subjects left smiling and nodding, whereupon they swarmed into the street like shimmering distillations of vapor, and could be seen to join, then finally disappear, into the vast formation of kowtows that dominated the city.


In addition to reforms offered by Friendship Centers, engineers of courtesy known as Saviors of Grace worked at large in titanic machines left over from failed military campaigns waged during the Age of Dissent. Elegant and blue as the moon despite fragile windshields easily brought to tears, these machines moved throughout the city, piloted by engineers wearing pinhole eyeglasses. They ceaselessly scanned for individuals referred to as Bugheads, which could be recognized by the thickness of their hair, as well as the size and shape of their thumbs, both of which might reveal an individual to be rudely absorbed in onanistic daydreams or skepticism. Once spotted, the enormous glowering machine would wait for a minute or two, grinding its teeth, its eyes fluttering to imply that serious action was forthcoming, then finally pounce and bring the Bughead to his knees, covering him with scavenger fish trained to nibble on his skin. A moat of warning was quickly dug around the prisoner before he was hauled inside with a cargo net and beaten about the ankles with a wind chime, after which he was dipped in swamp water and served the fish previously dumped on his head, since simmered in a savory cactus sauce. The prisoner was then given miniature pickaxes to use as utensils, and after finishing his corrective meal, deposited in the nearest wigwam.


Following the manumission of the Stations of Origin, which gave birth to destinations and employment, the Spectacles of Recreation were created, an early form of television. The sudden mountainous growth of employment and its erosion into daily routines created the need for additional identity embellishment, and within the new Recreation Centers, participation was simulated by the mandatory experience of watching activities and events from behind a transparent screen. During rare breaks from work, citizens swarmed to the Centers as required by law for a chance to further embellish their personalities by staring through the Wall of Life, an activity still familiar today. Like our own television, the screens were considered interactive because the viewers were allowed to keep their eyes open. The dramas of recreation served to alter their behavior and speech.

Examples included Circus Circus, a spectacular adventure dome in which smiling children stood on a moving platform while other talented youngsters swung extravagant golf clubs at their heads. The Search for the Obelisk, which featured various assault situations handled by the Amazing Jonathan, a naked sportsman who ran hysterically through a canyon in search of a lost wiffle ball. And almost impossible to comprehend, Goalball, a game played by blind teenagers in a cage of shadows with no real rules. Players jousted with foam fingers as they listened for a ball filled with jingle bells that they periodically made snatching attempts to prevent from vanishing.

However, like today, the most popular drama was death.


Rituals of death took a variety of forms, and the nature of a ceremony depended on the life of a citizen, which was immediately determined at birth. In ancient times, life was considered to begin at the moment of death. Flesh was taken for granted as forming on a pile of bones called an Uncle Willy, who would cackle with delight while taking shape. Once the Uncle Willy was fully formed, it grew younger until it arrived at the Parturition, at which point it would issue a brave battle cry, and hurling affections on a nearby woman, lift itself into her womb, climbing inside and disappearing into its own conception and the preceding realms of possibility.

The reverse ontology began during the Age of Dissent when the Wayzgoose is said to have swung back out of a woman attached to a life leash that was plugged into a hole in his stomach, and leading the woman about like a pet as he fed on what she ate through the cord, to have grown older, even as she grew younger, such that after twenty years they were the same age. At this point, he severed the life leash and wrapped it around the woman’s neck, chanting “Ka-ao-opua-loa” (the sharp-pointed living cloud) which invoked a wall of clouds around her abdomen.

Thereafter, life proceeded from birth, instead of from an Uncle Willy, and as soon as a person became aware of his or her shadow, rather than having the possibility of conception to look forward to, he had the certainty of death.

When an individual was born, he was taken to the Towers of Silence, an early version of the Thought Banks, where engineers examined his psychic entrails, pulling them from his head like snakes. To determine the person’s station in life, a man dressed as the Wayzgoose flagellated the entrails with straw. Later, the person became old and died, at which point, the corpse, called a Kack-Kack, was placed inside a wooden box with only its head and feet sticking out. As the Merchant Priest administered electric shocks to make the Kack-Kack walk in his coffin to a Recreation Center known as a Death Bowl, a Savior of Grace followed, examining the resulting footprints while using a mechanical hand to variously place and remove a diminishing range hats from the Kack-Kack’s head, until such time as he or she was wearing the hat most appropriate to his or her station in life, usually a dunce cap.

The Death Rituals were a beloved Spectacle of Recreation and commenced inside the Death Bowl as moderated by various hosts, including the Martial Artist and Fireclown. Smiling spectators filled the stands, as beyond the Wall of Life, the ritual began with Mr. Roboto clanging into proximity of an unboxed Kack-Kack curled into a fetal position. As a form of welcome, Mr. Roboto held the Kack-Kack upright by the neck and vigorously shook each of its hands. He then adorned it with bright smears of finger paint and removed its hat to pump the head and body full of nitro, this in preparation for the meticulous flames of the howling Fireclown, whose antics included forcing a Kack-Kack to kiss a kewpie doll before setting him on fire. Other Kack-Kacks might be dispensed with by the offended face of the Martial Artist, who took repeated whiffs of the Kack-Kack while shaking his head. A favorite activity of the Martial Artist was to batter the corpse with sticks that made the body seem to come to life in a lively dance, if only to escape this torment, the blows causing the Kack-Kack to appear to jump through imaginary hoops before he was eventually incinerated. Spectators left hungry for more, and with a stronger sense of their own personalities and recreational interests.

In Conclusion

Research continues to reveal much about our city. Like the Horn City of yesteryear, we thrive under a symphony of regulations. Although our history is always changing, certain facts and memories may glow in our minds with burgeoning interest. I remember reading about one young woman who has since disappeared from the history books. She conducted herself through life as if with the breath of God upon her back, releasing bright heavy drops of urine after every transaction. She lived with her family in a clean windy room atop a narrow building and they idled in the corners and polished lanterns with unbesmirched joy, always careful to fulfill their duties, eyes fastened on the task ahead as they breathed the sweet heavy air though their tiny asthmatic lungs. You could douse their heads with lighter fluid and none of them would be affected. They had no need to laugh because their lives were accompanied by a laugh track. It is thanks to people like them, and we who have followed in their ponderous footsteps, that our city functions so well beneath the vibrations of its cobalt sky.

Bryson Newhart lives in Ogden, Utah. He is a former associate editor of 3rd bed, whose back issues are now available through Calamari Press. Recent writing has appeared in Sein und Werden, 5trope.com, Caketrain, elimae, Tarpaulin Sky, The Dream People, and BDtDaEAtC. Older writing can be found by google, or in 3rd bed issues 5 and 9, Snow Monkey, or here: http://www.taintmagazine.com/index.php?work_id=215.

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