"The Fog Horn"
"The Fog Horn" is a 1951 American science fiction short story written by renowned genre author Ray Bradbury. The story served as the basis for the 1953 monster film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, which itself inspired the creation of the 1954 film Godzilla. Japanese filmmaker Daisuke Sato adapted the story into a short film of the same name in 2007, and later revisited it for his 2019 film Howl from Beyond the Fog.
One night in late November, Johnny and his boss McDunn are working at a remote lighthouse. Several years ago, McDunn recounted an experience in which numerous fish gathered around the bay, swimming around until midnight when they seemed to vanish back into the sea. He speculates that the fish had gathered to "worship" the lighthouse, among other things.
As the fog horn blows every fifteen seconds, McDunn later takes Johnny upstairs to show him something. Johnny asks McDunn if he is wanting to show him the schools of fish. McDunn rejects the offer and tells him that he had held off telling him about this, believing he would be seen as daft, for tonight was when “it” came the previous year. However, he refuses to go into further detail and tells Johnny to simply wait to see it for himself. McDunn offers Johnny to leave tomorrow after he witnesses “it”, stating this is the third time in three years straight it has appeared now, but is now the first time anyone else is with him to witness and verify what he is witnessing and demands Johnny to wait and watch. Half an hour passes without much said. McDunn begins to discuss theories with a metaphorical story on why this thing keeps returning to the lighthouse every year, speculating it is the fog horn itself that beckons it as the fog horn blows.
McDunn silences Johnny, interrupting him as he points out a mass swimming towards the lighthouse. It rises, revealing a large head attached to a long-necked reptilian body. Johnny estimates the creature to be 90 or 100 feet in size. He is flabbergasted at the sight of the beast, exclaiming it is impossible. McDunn retorts, saying "it is them who is impossible, for they have changed over millions of years while the beast has stayed the same." As the beast continues to swim, Johnny exclaims that the creature is a dinosaur that should have died out long ago. McDunn responds, suggesting that the creature was able to continue to exist in the most unfathomable deepest parts of the ocean.
A panicked Johnny asks what to do. McDunn tells him to continue working in the lighthouse, believing it is safer there than on a boat. Johnny then asks why the creature comes here, receiving his answer in the form of the monster responding to the fog horn with an identical cry. McDunn believes the creature comes every year from the bottom of the ocean, possibly the last surviving member of its kind and that it thinks the sound of the fog horn is one of its kind, attracting it to the shore. He later speaks about how, last year, the creature swam around and around all night while coming close to the lighthouse. The next day, the creature left, leaving McDunn to speculate that it went off, brooding for a year.
The monster then rushes towards the lighthouse as the fog horn blows again. McDunn then switches it off, causing the beast to stop in its tracks. It simply observes the two men in anger, before Johnny demands McDunn to turn the fog horn back on. He fumbles to switch it back on. The beast rears up and claws at the lighthouse, right as the fog horn blows again. It returns a cry as it seizes the tower and gnashes at the windows, shattering them. The two men both panic and attempt to run downstairs to hide in the lighthouse's cellar. The fog horn stops abruptly as the beast crashes into the lighthouse. As the tower crumbles over them, John and McDunn are left with no choice but to kneel and hold on to each other.
Both men survive, listening to the repetitive anguished cries of loneliness from the monster all through the night. The morning after, the men were rescued from the cellar. McDunn fabricates a more believable story of how waves caused the tower to collapse, pinching Johnny to make him comply with it.
A year later, a new lighthouse is constructed with steel-reinforced concrete. Johnny drives down to the bay, parking across from the lighthouse around the same time as last year. He asks McDunn if it ever came back. McDunn tells him the creature did not return this year and that it had gone back to the deepest parts of the ocean, once again waiting for another million years. Johnny sits in his car, unable to see the tower or the light, listening to the fog horn as he has nothing to say.
In other languages
- The original title for the story was "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms"; however, when Warner Bros. executives bought the rights to the story for their derivative film (then called The Monster from Beneath the Sea) and changed its title to reflect this, Bradbury retitled the story “The Fog Horn”.
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