Literature: There Will Come Soft Rains

"Today is August 4, 2026."

"There Will Come Soft Rains" is a post apocalyptic Science-Fiction short story written in 1950 by Ray Bradbury. It tells about the continued goings-on of an automated house, abandoned but still running on its programming. The house goes about its programmed tasks, such as making breakfast and cleaning. As the story goes it becomes clear that a nuclear war destroyed all of the humans. The house runs continuously until it succumbs to decay; no one will ever live in it again.

The name comes from the 1920 Sara Teasdale poem about how little the human race will be missed, though the name was specifically chosen to show that the poem was too optimistic: instead of the animals and plants getting on with things after we've gone, the humans have wiped out nearly everything.

There is a 1984 Soviet animated adaptation directed by Nazim Tulyakhodzayev that can be found here.

Tropes used by the story:

  • Absurdly Dedicated Worker: The entire plot of the piece is that a fully-automated house keeps performing its duties of cleaning the house, preparing meals, singing lullabies for the kids etc., even though the home has been empty for a long time and the family and everyone else has perished in a nuclear war.
  • After the End
  • Atomic Hate
  • Broken Record: After the house finally burns down, all that is left is one voice: "Today is August 5, 2026, today is August 5, 2026, today is—"
  • Clockwork Creature: The robot mice, rats, and crickets.
  • Computer Voice
  • Crapsaccharine World: Though the soviet film only gave hints, it would appear as though pre-apocalyptic America wasn't doing very well either. The fact that hazmat suits adorn the bedrooms, the family's work clothes also resemble radiation suits, and the fact that the window to the grandmother's room is blocked by a "Video window" showing a pristine landscape, would all indicate that the environment outside might have already been wrecked when the bomb fell.
  • Downer Ending: Arguably the Downer Ending already happened, but it is possible to develop a little empathy for the still running house, making the end of the story a second Downer Ending.
  • The End of the World as We Know It
  • Eye Scream: In the animated adaptation, the robot's eyes (or, sensors) are destroyed during an attempt to scare away a bird... The Reveal shows the 'sockets' bleeding fluid. Gah.
  • Failsafe Failure
  • In the Future, We Still Have Roombas: In the form of robot mice and rats.
  • Humanity's Wake
  • Literary Allusion Title: To Sara Teasdale's poem There Will Come Soft Rains, which is about how humans would never be missed if they were to all disappear.
    • "Weird Al" Effect As now most people would only know the poem from the Bradbury story.
  • Ragnarok-Proofing: It runs out of water trying to put out a fire in itself, since there isn't any water service anymore, and its backup systems don't prove effective enough.
  • Shoot the Dog: The family dog, which survived The End, comes back to the house. It tries one final time to locate his family, and when it fails, curls up and promptly dies of starvation and (presumably) radiation poisoning. The rodent Roombas carry it off and incinerate the body without a word.
  • Smart House: Though whether or not it has some measure of sentience is still debated.
  • Title Drop: The poem is recited by the house (Mrs. McClellan used to listen to poems in the evening).