THE FOGHORN by Ray Bradbury (The Stories of Ray Bradbury, Alfred A. Knopf, 1981; A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories, HarperPerennial, 2005; American Supernatural Stories ed. S. T. Joshi, October 2007)
“Out there in the cold water, far from land, we waited every night for the coming of the fog, and it came, and we oiled the brass machinery and lit the fog light up in the stone tower. Feeling like two birds in the gray sky, McDunn and I sent the light touching out, red, then white, then red again, to eye the lonely ships. And if they did not see our light, then there was always our Voice, the great deep cry of our Fog Horn shuddering through the rags of mist to startle the gulls away like decks of scattered cards and make the waves turn high and foam.”
In “The Foghorn” Bradbury applies all his skill to creating a mood. This is a masterpiece of melancholy, from the first lines building the readers’ anticipation, setting the scene, laying a foundation for empathy and compassion and, also, dread.
For years I kept trying Bradbury’s stories without much enjoying them. Most of the ones I read early on didn’t appeal to me and the main reason I kept trying was that the first Bradbury story I remember reading was this one. Something about it, something about the remoteness of the location, the camaraderie of the men and the air of melancholy Bradbury establishes resonated for me then and still does. One man has stayed at the fog horn for all of the five years it has been in operation, the other has only been there for three months. But this night is the night of a special visit from the deeps, and what rough beast heeds the call and bellows in pain and loneliness?
All right now, stop a moment.
Really, just for a moment.
No more typing or clicking, just for a moment.
Stop and consider that October 31, 2012 will be the first Halloween in 92 years without Ray Bradbury. When I heard of Ray Bradbury’s passing, I experienced a selfish pang, a sense of loss: No more stories to look forward to, the set of stories about the Elliot family (“Homecoming”; “Uncle Einar,” others) as complete as they will ever be, the further adventures of Will and Jim and Will’s father left to our imaginations, and no more stories from the October Country. At least, no more from Bradbury.
For me, and I would guess many other readers, autumn seems a little bleaker this year, the colors muted, the fallen leaves more sere. Something exuberant and joyous, yet aware of the darkness in the world, that once this way traveled travels this way no longer. Thank you, Mr. Bradbury. You made the season richer for merely embracing it.
Ray Bradbury 1
Ray Bradbury 2
More mysteries of the deep:
F. Marion Crawford: “The Upper Berth” (first published 1894; For the Blood is the Life, White Wolf, 1996; available on the Internet)
William Hope Hodgson: “The Voice in the Night” (first published 1907; found in Adrift on the Haunted Seas; Great Weird Tales ed. S. T. Joshi; available on the Internet); The Boats of the “Glen Carrig”
H. P. Lovecraft: “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” ( H. P. Lovecraft: The Fiction: Complete and Unabridged ; Werewolves and Shape Shifters ed. John Skipp, Black Dog & Leventhal, 2010; H.P. Lovecraft Goes to the Movies, Fall River Press, 2011)
Albert Sanchez Pinol: Cold Skin
Glen Hirshberg: “Devil’s Smile” (American Morons)
Caitlin Kiernan: [u]The Drowning Girl[/u]; “A Redress for Andromeda” & “Nor the Demons Down Under the Sea” & “Andromeda Among the Stones” (To Charles Fort, With Love, Subterranean Press, 2005)
Note: "The Foghorn" is the basis -- vaguely -- for one of the great 1950's monster movies, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953).
Next: Deadfall Hotel by Steve Rasnic Tem