Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Fog Horn by Ray Bradbury

***(out of four stars)

Men are monsters. Monsters are men.  How do we co-exist?

Some men are born monsters.  They cause great pain and detriment to our society.  Other monsters are myth and legend; born from one's imagination.  Most of the time monsters do harm.  Whether it's intentional or not. But they can be misunderstood too.  They can be a product of scientific experimentation.  Or they can come back from the dead and eat human flesh.  The possibilities are endless, really.  

Monsters come in all different shapes and sizes.  

But the scariest of all is the unknown.  

So, I ask again, how do we co-exist?  How do we communicate with fear? 

What lurks beneath the gentle waters of the sea?  What ageless beings from a forgotten time still inhabit the vast blue abyss?  You might think we're talking about a Lovecraftian tale, wouldn't you?  

We're not.  

Ray Bradbury's The Fog Horn is an epitome for loneliness.   Two men work at a remote lighthouse, hidden away from the world, connected only by a lonely stretch of road that is barely traveled during the winter months.  McDunn and Johnny are our two characters.  We quickly realize that McDunn has been working at the lighthouse longer.  He's Johnny's boss.  He's had certain experiences with the wide sea that surrounds the lighthouse.  One that involves a monster that lurks beneath the surface.  He really wants Johnny to experience seeing this monster too.  He philosophizes about life and loneliness and how we communicate with the unknown.  He understands that when the fog horn sounds, the monster will answer.  

Johnny is the narrator and conveys his experience to us, the reader.  They sound the fog horn and wait. Soon they begin to see something coming toward the lighthouse.  Something previously seen only by McDunn's eyes.  The creature is described as looking like a dinosaur, or something prehistoric.  

The monster reacts violently to the fog horn and destroys the lighthouse, leaving McDunn and Johnny buried in the rubble.  The monster is so close they can smell his pungent stench.  They can see his skin.  However, they are unharmed and the monster retreats back to the sea never to return again.

The reason?  Because he doesn't need to.  The monster is looking for something familiar.  The fog horn blows and he thinks that it's one of his own.  Just as we see the sea as a mystery, the monster shares the same opinions about land.  For him the sea hasn't changed or evolved.  It's been the same for years and years.  He's the last of his kind, and just the thought of that is depressing.  The fog horn isn't a long lost friend, it's a reminder that although there's nothing for him up here, there's still nothing down below either.

Published in 1951, the story had a different title, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.  Bradbury changed it  to The Fog Horn after a film using a similar title was released.  It was inspired by a walk Bradbury took on a beach where he saw a demolished roller coaster.  The coaster resembled the skeletal remains of a dinosaur.

I read this story from The Golden Apples of the Sun.  

No comments:

Post a Comment