Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains” tells the story of a house that has survived a nuclear blast in the year 2026. The house has automated systems, not unlike a modern-day smart home.
- Each day, the house makes the beds, cooks dinner, and throws out the trash—despite the fact that its owners have died.
- The family dog, injured in the blast, returns to the house and is let inside. Within an hour, the dog dies of radiation poisoning.
- That night, the house catches on fire and dies repeating, “Today is August 5, 2026 . . .”
This futuristic story has no characters but centers instead on the single house left standing after a nuclear blast has destroyed the remainder of Allendale, California, in the year 2026. It is the story of one day in the life of the house: the day the house finally dies after having lived on for days after its inhabitants were killed in the blast. All that remains of the couple and two children who once lived there are four silhouettes in paint on the otherwise charred west exterior wall of the house. Such is the technology of Ray Bradbury’s twenty-first century world, however, that the house continues to go about its daily business, oblivious to the total destruction around it and to the total absence of human life: “The house was an altar with ten thousand attendants, big, small, servicing, attending, in choirs. But the gods had gone away, and the ritual of the religion continued senselessly, uselessly.”
Mechanical voice boxes hidden in the house’s walls announce the date, weather, and noteworthy events of the day. A voice clock sings out the passing hours. The mechanical stove makes breakfast for family members who will never return to eat it, and robot cleaning-mice scurry out of their burrows to carry away any chance bit of debris. The family dog, the only remaining living creature, starves to death outside the kitchen door while inside the kitchen the uneaten breakfast is swept down the garbage disposal. The mice, sensing decay, scurry out again to carry off the corpse and toss it into the incinerator.
Time ticks away as the house prepares for a bridge party that never takes place, draws baths for its missing inhabitants, prepares dinner, warms the beds, and even lights a pipe for its absent master. At ten o’clock, the house starts to die. A falling branch breaks a window and sends a bottle of cleaning solvent shattering across the kitchen stove. Fire races through the rooms as the house fights desperately to save itself. All of humankind’s twenty-first century technology is brought to bear as the battle rages. Voice boxes scream out warnings to the inhabitants for whom the warning comes too late, chemical foam gushes from the attic, and mechanical rain showers down from the walls. Finally, however, the reserve water supply that has kept the house functioning for days is used up, and the fire rages out of control.
As the house’s wiring, its nervous system, starts to shrivel and burn, pandemonium breaks loose. The stove turns out huge quantities of breakfast as the flames eat up what has already been prepared, the mice rush out to try to carry away the growing mounds of ash, and the walls resound with a crazy chorus of voices, one quietly reading poetry as the study around it burns. When the house finally comes crashing down, dawn is showing in the east, and from the one wall still standing a single, last voice repeats over and over, “Today is August 5, 2026, today is August 5, 2026, today is . . . ”
"There Will Come Soft Rains" is one of Bradbury's most famous stories. Also known as "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains," the story was first published in Bradbury's highly acclaimed collection The Martian Chronicles in 1950. Written in an era in which many people were concerned about the devastating effects of nuclear weapons, the story depicts a world in which human beings have been destroyed by nuclear force. The central irony of the story is that humans have been...
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