The Exiles (Bradbury)

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The Exiles
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: A crew on a rocket ship experienced strange deaths and visions as they traveled to Mars, only to discover that the inhabitants of the planet were the creations of famous authors, doomed to vanish as their works were destroyed on Earth.

In a desolate landscape, three witches were seen performing a ritual, casting spells and creating a wax figure. Meanwhile, a rocket ship from Earth was heading towards Mars, with its crew members dying mysteriously. The captain of the ship was perplexed by the unexplained deaths and strange occurrences, including visions of bats and needles.

The Captain — leader of the rocket ship crew; meticulous, authoritarian; deeply concerned about the strange occurrences on the ship.

But this is the year 2120, Smith. We’re rational men. This all can’t be happening. But it is! Whoever they are, with their needles and their bats, they’ll try to finish us all.”

Back on Mars, the witches were seen consulting a crystal ball, which showed the image of the captain. They were alarmed by the impending arrival of the rocket and decided to warn the inhabitants of a nearby city. Among the city's residents were figures from Earth's literary past, including Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Dickens. They were all aware of the rocket's arrival and were preparing to defend their existence.

Mr. Edgar Allan Poe — one of the inhabitants of Mars; literary creator, angry and defiant; leader in the plan to fight against the rocket men.

Our books were plucked up by neat, sterile, surgeon’s pliers, and flung into vats, to boil, to be killed of all their mortuary germs. Damn them all!

As the rocket landed, the literary figures and witches launched an attack, using their powers to create illusions and fear. However, the rocket men were unfazed and started a fire, burning books they had brought with them. As each book was burned, the corresponding literary figure or creature disappeared, their existence tied to the survival of their stories.

In the end, the rocket men were left alone on the desolate Martian landscape, unaware of the battle they had unknowingly won. The last man standing, Smith, remembered a story from his childhood about a city called Oz, but his memories were dismissed as delusions by his captain.

Smith — member of the rocket ship crew; follower, sensitive; has nightmares about white rats; reminisces about an old story of a green city.

Why, there’s no one here at all, is there? No one here at all.

The wind blew over the empty landscape, erasing all traces of the battle and the once vibrant city.