Solitude is the central theme of "The Silent Towns," particularly the difference between solitude and loneliness.
When Walter Gripp, a poor miner, wakes up one morning to discover all the settlers have left Mars, he's puzzled, but not dismayed. Indeed, he spends his first week after the "evacuation" reveling in the freedom of being alone. He treats himself to fine food and wine, fits himself out with expensive clothes, and moves into a big house in the best part of town. Walter is aware from his perambulations that everyone seems to have left the planet, so he stocks up on food and supplies:
No morning passed that he didn’t freeze a ton of meats, vegetables, and lemon cream pies, enough to last ten years, until the rockets came back from Earth, if they ever came.
After a week of unfettered freedom and access to all the luxuries he's never been able to afford, the reality of Walter's situation begins to set in:
“Why,” he said, “I’m all alone.”
The solitude that just a day before...
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