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I'm not sure why, but a story I read many years ago recently popped into my head, and I have been agonizing over trying to figure out what it was ever since.

I believe it was in one of those "Best of the year" science fiction anothogies - maybe in the early 1990's.

The basic premise was that there was a space station with two living compartments. Every once in a while a single human would occupy one side and an alien would occupy the other. They didn't have physical contact with each other but they could sense each other's presence.
The human who was occupying the station was slowly being driven mad by curiosity about the alien who was so close, and I believe it was so stressful for the alien that it was secreting (or sweating) some substance that was of tremendous value to the human race.

Anyone have any idea what the name of this story is?

I would love to read it again and see if it is better than my vague memory of it. Thanks.

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I think this may be Stranger Station by Damon Knight, published in 1956. It is available to read at this link.

In this story, there's an alien that comes once every twenty years, to the space station where just one other person (a human) was stationed to meet him. The alien exuded an elixir that was used to keep people young and healthy (and thus was obviously worth fortunes) - though the humans did not know why, or what the alien got out of it. The alien stayed in a room - or a cage - so there was likely no contact between them.

The human was being driven mad, yes, though it wasn't just that he was curious but that the alien, or proximity to the alien, was actually making him crazy - something about the alien's presence or the influence of his mind on any humans in the vicinity, which was the reason there was only one human on the station with the alien.

There's another question where this story was an answer here, so this may be a duplicate question if the story is the right one.

  • That's it! Thanks so much. It was definitely an older story than I thought. – Wavydavy2020 Dec 4 '16 at 11:42
  • It was in "The World Treasury of Science Fiction" anthology edited by David G. Hartwell, published by Little, Brown and Company in 1989. Fantastic anthology, by the way! – Wavydavy2020 Dec 4 '16 at 11:49
  • @Wavydavy2020 - I'm glad you found it helpful :) – Megha Dec 4 '16 at 18:50

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