Bradbury, Ray – “Dwellers in Silence” (1949)
Another Martian chronicle. I bought a copy of the book the other day but at this rate I’m going to read all of them in these anthologies anyway and needn’t have bothered. It’s twenty years after the Great War destroyed most of life on Earth and called all the Martian colonists home – except for Dr. Hathaway and his family (wife, daughter, and son). Fortunately, twenty years is all it takes to recover from a world-shattering holocaust, and a new rocket lands on Mars to see what’s left. Hathaway decides that with civilization restored, his vigil is ended, and conveniently dies. The astronauts discover that the other three were robots (which has has been glaringly telegraphed from the beginning of the story) Hathaway built to replace his loved ones after they succumbed to some sort of plague. Unable to find it within themselves to decommission them, the astronauts leave them behind when they return to Earth, and the story closes with the robots mechanically and cluelessly continuing their meaningless daily lives. This final scene’s message regarding the soulless mechanism of daily life seems to have little to do with the rest of the story.