The Long Rain

by

Ray Bradbury

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The lieutenant and his comrades are trudging through the soggy Venusian jungle in search of a Sun Dome, one of 126 American-made shelters peppered among Venus’ single continent. The constant rain is maddening. The men’s fingers are pruned, their foreheads are sore from the pelting raindrops, and their entire bodies are turning pasty white—including their eyes, hair, and uniforms.

Thirty days ago, their rocket crashed on Venus, killing two of their comrades on impact. Since then, the surviving men have been navigating the waterlogged planet with difficulty, searching desperately for a Sun Dome so that they can finally eat, sleep, and dry off. The Domes are said to be filled with luxuries, like leather-bound books, hot chocolate “crowned with marshmallow dollops,” soft beds, and an artificial sun suspended in the ceiling, which warms the entire building.

As they tromp through the jungle, Simmons thinks he sees something in a clearing and runs ahead. His companions take off after him, hoping that they’ve finally found a Sun Dome. Instead, the men come face to face with their abandoned rocket—and realize they’ve somehow circled back around to it in the last month. They feel dejected, but the lieutenant reminds them that they still have two days’ worth of food left.

Suddenly, a monster rips through the jungle. The monster is bright blue, complete with a thousand lightning bolts for legs, and burns everything in its path. The lieutenant orders all of his comrades to lie down in the mud, but one of them—an unnamed man—runs away screaming. The monster zaps him instantly, and the jungle smells of burning flesh.

The remaining men—the lieutenant, Simmons, and Pickard—have no choice but to carry on. They make their way across milky white rivers and through the pale jungle. Finally, they see a sheer yellow glow in the distance. The men excitedly run toward it, buoyed by the sight of the Sun Dome. However, when they arrive, the Sun Dome is completely abandoned. Rain pours down from a thousand holes in the ceiling (the handiwork of the Venusians, who don’t want Earth people on their planet), and all of the food is covered with green fur. The men consider waiting for a rescue team but decide to move on to the next Dome, which is about eight hours away.

After several more hours of travel, the men decide to rest—they haven’t slept in thirty days, because the rain makes it impossible to do so. After lying down for only a few moments, however, Pickard suddenly starts screaming and shoots his rifle in the air repeatedly. The lieutenant fumbles for his hand lamp and shines it on Pickard’s face—his pupils are dilated and his mouth is wide open, filling with water. The lieutenant yells at Pickard and tries slapping his face, but Simmons says it’s no use: Pickard has gone insane and is now trying to drown himself. Simmons shoots Pickard to put him out of his misery.

The lieutenant and Simmons carry on, but soon Simmons starts showing signs of insanity himself. Simmons declares that he doesn’t want to die of insanity and drowning—he plans to shoot himself as soon as the lieutenant is out of sight. Unable to reason with his companion, the lieutenant is forced to carry on alone.

The lieutenant miserably tells himself that he’ll keep walking for just five more minutes. After that, he’ll drown himself in the ocean. Within moments, however, the lieutenant sees a bright yellow glow in the distance and realizes he’s reached the Sun Dome. He takes off at a run, crashing and tripping through the jungle.

He finally stumbles inside the Dome and is overwhelmed by the sight. The tables are laden with steaming pots of coffee and platters of sandwiches. On a nearby chair sits a stack of fluffy Turkish towels and a fresh uniform. Gazing up at the ceiling, he sees the glorious yellow sun. He vaguely notices other men coming toward him, but he ignores them, instead pulling off his soggy clothes and walking wordlessly toward the sun.