What better day to end my Bradbury 13 series, than on Friday the 13th! Saving the best for last, I am pleased to share Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed. Found in S is for Space and The Day it Rained Forever, Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed is my favorite of the Bradbury 13 series. Always my first choice, and for me, one of the most fantastic stories. There is a bit of wonder and imagination that just grabs me here.
The Bittering family has just landed on Mars. Harry, his wife, Cora, and their three children, Dan, Laura, and David, have come to Mars to escape the wars. The atom bombs are threatening, and they want to be away until they it is safe to return again to Earth. But the moment Harry steps out of the rocket, he wants to turn back. There is just something about the planet, its air, the wind, that frightens him. But Cora insists they stay, having traveled over sixty million miles.
So, they stay. They build a home, plant a garden and go about their lives. But Harry is always on edge, worried about the air or the sounds, the memories in the old Martian ruins. The garden doesn't seem to bring the vegetables that he remembers from earth, even though they are earth seeds. Things just don't seem right. He is tense, worried that something is going to happen.
And something does happen. The radio sends up word that the Atom bombs have hit New York, and all the space rockets are gone, blown up. One thousand Earth people, gone to be safe on Mars are all now stranded.
The one hope Harry had, that the rockets would come and he could return to Earth with his family, is gone. They are stranded on this strange planet with the few hundred other people who came to Mars to wait out the war. Harry will not be stranded. This cannot be final. So, he goes into town to urge the other men to help him build a rocket. No one feels his urgency. Sam, a friend, tells Harry he has rocket blue prints and a load of metal. Harry is welcome to it. But no one is eager to help. He works alone, the men standing in the doorway, helping Harry lift something heavy every now and then. But no one is worried about a rush to go home.
As the summer comes in, and it gets hot, the town has decided to move up to the old Martian villas where it is cooler. What's a man to do? Harry has to build his rocket, but no one will help, and now they're all leaving town. Is life really that bad on Mars? Or is it just a perception that Harry needs to let go of? People seem happy. The town is peaceful. There's no hostility.
What would you do? The story has a fantastic turn of events and an even better ending. I love to contemplate the way this works. Many of Bradbury's stories have people who have moved to Mars or are out searching other planets for something better. And it always brings to my mind the question of what would we do if earth really got so bad? Would we run away from it? Where would we go? If there was another planet, would we try to attempt a better life there? Would it be peaceful and calm? Or would there be someone who would try to rule, form government, instead of just living in peace and order without reinforcements? Is that life possible? Wouldn't the folks who made the earth unlivable just jump in their own rocket and create the same chaos that they left behind? Not all of Bradbury's tales about people on Mars are peaceful. Some have destruction, some with unexpected results, (Read the Martian Chronicles, you'll see my point) but many of his characters do find a better life.
If there is only one Bradbury 13 story that you read, make it Dark They Were and Golden Eyed. Don't forget the audio version available on twilightzoneradio.com. I hope you enjoy it.