Ray Bradbury's short story "There Will Come Soft Rains" borrows its title from Sara Teasdales's poem published in 1920. The poet depicts the wiping out of humanity by war and nature's reclamation of the land. Bradbury's story, which first appeared in his "The Martian Chronicles" collection published in 1950, portrays a post-apocalyptic California and the life of one remaining house.
In the city of Allendale, California, a voice from the ceiling of a house announces the date is August 4, 2026. The clock ticks, and the kitchen makes a breakfast of toast, eggs, bacon, coffee and milk. The voice in the ceiling announces a birthday reminder, a wedding anniversary and a list of bills that need to be paid. Then it's time for work and school, but no doors open or shut. It is raining outside, and the weatherbox sings a song, but the only other sound is the rain tapping on the empty house.
The garage door opens to reveal a car but shuts again when the car doesn't move. The breakfast is cold, and an aluminum wedge scrapes the food into a waste disposal unit; the dishes are put in the dishwasher and emerge dry and sparkling. At 9:15 robot mice made of rubber and metal emerge from the skirting boards and have the entire house cleaned by 10. The sun comes out, and we are told the house stands alone in a city of rubble and ashes that glows with radioactivity. On the external wall of the house are five silhouettes of people, caught in one moment of action.
The story shifts to the significance of this particular day. A dog appears on the porch, and the door recognizes the dog's voice and opens. The dog is a shadow of its former self and is covered in sores and dirt. But it only stays around for a couple of hours. The story turns to the nursery with its walls covered with exotic animals and jungle paintings. This time of afternoon was time for the children.
The house reads Sara Teasdale's poem to Mrs. McLellan as if she were there. At 10 o'clock the house begins to die. The wind blows a tree through a window, cleaning solvent spills on the stove, and a spark lights it. The house shouts "Fire!" but the flames spread, and the house tries to save itself. But the heat breaks the windows, and the wind fans the flames. The water runs out, and fire extinguishers explode. Bit by bit the house is burned to rubble. As the dawn appears, somewhere among the ruins a voice says, "Today is August 5, 2026."
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