People have often claimed that at death, a person's life flashes before their eyes. In what ways is the death of the house similar to the death of a person?
In “There Will Come Soft Rains,” we read about a smart house that exists after a nuclear holocaust. The house continues to function, though no one is alive to experience the care that it is providing. The only clue that we get about the fate of humanity is the singed shadows of people doing everyday activities on the side of the house. How is a house, which isn’t really alive, going to have its life flash before its eyes? By doing the same things it did when it had people around to care for—carrying out the automated tasks as if the people were still there.
For example, in the story, the house continues to do many everyday activities like prepare breakfast:
In the kitchen the breakfast stove gave a hissing sigh and ejected from its warm interior eight pieces of perfectly browned toast, eight eggs sunny side up, sixteen slices of bacon, two coffees, and two cool glasses of milk.
It also wishes the residents a happy birthday:
"Today is August 4, 2026," said a second voice from the kitchen ceiling, "in the city of Allendale, California." It repeated the date three times for memory's sake. "Today is Mr. Featherstone's birthday. Today is the anniversary of Tilita's marriage. Insurance is payable, as are the water, gas, and light bills."
The house continues to do the same things it did when it was occupied. It doesn’t know that the residents have been vaporized, and it doesn’t know that the bills will never come due again. However, the consistent repetition of care it provides, doing the daily chores as if people were still around to use them, is similar to someone experiencing their life flash before their eyes. Just as that person would relive experiences they’ve encountered before, so the house continues to carry out the functions it had before the bomb was dropped.
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