"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. The house goes about its programmed tasks, such as making breakfast and cleaning, sustaining its own processes for days at a time. As the story goes on 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 nature reclaiming the former battlefields of Europe in the years following World War One (but also about how little nature would notice if humans suddenly disappeared) a poem which is recited by the house itself midway through the story. In particular, the poem was chosen to exemplify the fact that life (and in this case, some technology) goes on, even if humans were to suddenly vanish.
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: The nuclear holocaust has already happened.
- Artificial Outdoors Display: The nursery had beautiful metallic/glass animals, woven to resemble a crisp cereal meadow, where the walls picture the outdoors to distances of grass and warm endless sky. The animation instead reserves a single screen for the grandmother.
- 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—"
- Card Games: In the afternoon, the smart house deploys a table with playing cards for those playing Bridge.
- Clockwork Creature: The robot mice, rats, and crickets used to clean the house.
- Crapsaccharine World:
- Though the Soviet film only gives 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 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.
- On top of that, the robotic house itself. Aside from micromanaging the daily routine of the inhabitants to a ridiculous degree, everything is made of cold stainless steel, the beds and chairs look cramped and uncomfortable, and the robotic servant looks and sounds very creepy. Seeing the robot attack the bird without any regard for the safety of the humans around or their belongings also shows this house would be an accident waiting to happen even before the war.
- Death of a Child: The dead family to whom the house belonged had two children, a boy and a girl.
- Dies Differently in Adaptation: Well, perhaps not that differently. In the book, the family was outside the house when the bomb hit and were completely vaporized, leaving white silhouettes on the house's side. In the animated adaptation, enough of them is left to be recognizable as human-shaped piles of ash.
- 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.
- 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 book, the water runs out when battling the fire. The house switched to a green chemical fire suppressant, but the fire worked its way outside the house and entered the vents to the attic, and destroyed the machine responsible for controlling the fire.
- In the Future, We Still Have Roombas: In the form of robot mice and rats.
- 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.
- No Body Left Behind: Not even ashes, only silhouettes of their forms against the side of the house as they were vaporized by a nuclear blast.
- Ragnarök Proofing: Although it survived the blast, the house runs out of water trying to put out a fire in itself because it has been using up all its reserves cooking and washing dishes since the attack.
- 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, scratches the kitchen door with pancakes cooking on the other side. The dog curls up and promptly dies of starvation and (presumably) radiation poisoning. The cleaning robots carry it off and incinerate the body without a word.
- Smart House: The house is entirely automated and performs all routine tasks on its own, freeing its inhabitants from maintenance and day-to-day tasks, although 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).
- Unnecessarily Creepy Robot: The Soviet adaptation's robot is a giant snakelike apparatus fixed over the dining room table that has four ohmu-like feelers to manipulate objects. It also has three retractable spikes that it uses to ram intruders.
- Vague Age: The children's room is described as a nursery, yet they're old enough to have gone to school.