The Fog Horn

Every night MacDunn and Johnny waited for the fog. When it came, they lit the fog light in the lighthouse. Red, then white, then red again. They sent the light to the ships out in the sea but when the fog was too thick they switched on their Fog Horn!

One cold November evening they were having a quiet talk about their job, about the mysteries of the sea. The great eye of the light was shining into the sea. The Fog Horn was blowing once every fifteen seconds.

‘One night,’ said MacDunn, ‘years ago, I was here alone. Suddenly the fish came up. Something made them swim up. When I saw their funny eyes, I turned cold. They were like a big peacock’s tail in the moonlight.

Then, without a sound, they disappeared. Strange. Think how the lighthouse must look to them. It stands high above the water, the light comes out from it, and the tower speaks in a monster voice…

Johnny was frightened. He was watching the grey sea going away into nothing and nowhere.

‘Oh, the sea’s full of life,’ he said.

‘Yes, it’s an old world,’ MacDunn smoked his ci­gar and looked worried. ‘Now, I’ve got something to tell you. The Fog Horn sounds like an animal, doesn’t it? A big lonely animal crying in the night. Calling out to the Deep, ‘I’m here, I’m here.’ Well, you have been here for three months, Johnny, so I’m going to tell you. Something comes to visit the lighthouse.’

‘Do you mean the fish?’

‘No, something else. First it happened three years ago. It usually happens about this time of the year. Let’s wait and watch.’

While they were waiting, MacDunn told some theories about the Fog Horn to Johnny.

‘One day a man walked along the cold shore. Then he stopped and said, «We need a voice to call across the water to the ships. I’ll make one like a voice of the fog. I’ll make a sound that’s so lonely that everybody listens to it. Everyone who hears it will start crying, and their hearts will become warmer.» I made up that story to ex­plain why it keeps coming back to the lighthouse. The Fog Horn calls it, I think, and it comes…’

It was a foggy night and the light was coming and going, and the Fog Horn was calling through the air. In the high tower they watched the sea moving to the dark shore. And then, suddenly from the cold sea came a large dark head, and then a neck. And then more neck and more! The head was high above the water on a beautiful dark neck. Finally came the body, like a little is­land of black coral.

‘It’s impossible!’ said Johnny.

‘No, Johnny, we’re impossible. It has always been. It hasn’t changed at all!’

The silent monster was swimming slowly in the icy water with the fog around. One of its eyes caught the bright light of the tower, red, white, red, white.

‘But the dinosaurs died out long ago!’ Johnny cried.

‘No, they hid away in the Deep.’

‘What should we do?’

‘We’ve got our job. We can’t leave it. Besides, we’re safe here.’

‘But here, why does it come here’

The next moment Johnny had his answer. The Fog Horn blew. And the monster answered. A cry so sad and lonely! The Fog Horn blew. The monster cried again. The Fog Horn blew. The monster opened its great toothed mouth and the sound that came from it was the sound of the Fog Horn itself. It was the sound of unhappiness, of a cold night.

‘Imagine, all year long,’ whispered MacDunn, ‘that poor monster waits, deep in the sea. Maybe it’s the last of its kind. Think of it, waiting a million years! One day it hears the Fog Horn in his deep hiding-place. The sound comes and goes, comes and goes. Then the monster starts its way up to have a look at it. He does it very slowly because the heavy ocean is on its shoulders. It goes up and up for three autumn months and it can hear the voice better and better. And there it is, in the night, Johnny! And here’s the lighthouse. The monster can see that the lighthouse has got a neck as long as its neck, and a body like its body, and, most important of all, a voice like its voice. Do you understand now, Johnny?’

The Fog Horn blew. The monster answered. It was only a hundred yards off now.

‘That’s how it happens,’ said MacDunn. ‘You love some­thing more than that thing loves you. And one day you want to destroy it, because it hurts you.’

The monster was swimming to the lighthouse. The Fog Horn blew.

‘Let’s see what happens,’ said MacDunn and switched the Fog Horn off.

It was a minute of silence and the men could hear their hearts. The monster’s eyes looked into the dark. Its mouth opened. It sounded like a volcano. It turned its head to the right and then to the left. It looked for the Fog Horn, for its deep sounds. Then its eyes caught fire. It swam towards the tower, its eyes filled with anger.

‘MacDunn!’ Johnny cried. ‘Switch on the horn!’

MacDunn switched the horn on and they saw its fish skin. It hit the tower with its gigantic paws and the tower shook.

MacDunn cried, ‘Downstairs! Quick!’

They ran down and hid in a small room at the bot­tom of the lighthouse. The next moment they heard the rocks raining down. The lighthouse fell. There was noth­ing but darkness and the wash of the sea on the stones. And then they heard the monster’s cry. There was no tower and no Fog Horn — the thing that had been call­ing to the monster for so many years. And the monster was opening its mouth and sending out great sounds. The sounds of a Fog Horn, again and again. And so it went for the rest of that night.

The next morning the people came and helped them to get out of the ruins.

‘It was a terrible storm,’ said Mr. MacDunn. ‘We had some bad knocks from the waves and the tower fell.’

The ocean was quiet and the sky was blue. The lighthouse was in the ruins. The monster? It never came back. It returned back to the Deep. It learned you can’t love anything too much in this world.