I'm looking for a science fiction short story. Humans walk around an empty city that "teaches" them. At the end they transcend into energy? higher beings?

  • 1
    When did you read this? As part of an anthology? Online? By itself? Written in the sands of time? How did they get to this city? Was this in the future? Our time? 200 BC?
    – FuzzyBoots
    May 19, 2017 at 15:01
  • There's a great lot of tips on writing a story-ID question that'll help you rememebr more details. May 19, 2017 at 15:02
  • If the question has been answered to your satisfaction, you can accept an answer by clicking on the check mark next to the answer of your choice.
    – user14111
    May 19, 2017 at 19:55

2 Answers 2


I'm looking for a science fiction short story.

"Environment", a short story by Chester S. Geier, also the (unaccepted) answer to this old question and this one; first published in Astounding Science Fiction, May 1944, available at the Internet Archive. Any of these covers look familiar?

Humans walk around an empty city that "teaches" them.

"Deserted!" he whispered. "Deserted—but why?"

Jon Gaynor turned as Wade Harlan emerged from the lock. The two glanced at each other, then, in mutual perplexity, their eyes turned to the dreaming city.

[. . . .]

Instruction followed application, and in a very few days, Gaynor and Harlan moved on. Thus they went, from unit to unit, and always the wall paintings pointed out the way.

The sun rose and the sun set, and the city dreamed on. And always high in the sky, the crystal creatures circled and soared, tinkling and chiming. The days passed gently, mere wraiths of sunlight.

The machines grew larger, more intricate, ever more difficult of solution. Each was a new test upon the growing knowledge of Gaynor and Harlan. And each test was harder than the last, for the wall paintings no longer pointed out the way, but merely hinted now.

At the end they transcend into energy? higher beings?

The beings who once had been Gaynor and Harlan narleened the paintings on the wall of the Temple, gazed upon them with this new, all-embracing sense which went far beyond the limited realms of mere vision—so that almost the paintings spoke to them and they answered back. They narleened the paintings.

Their every question was answered—for all eternity.

And thus it came about, after a time, that two great, faceted crystals emerged from the doorway of the Temple, and lifted, pulsing with a vibrant new life, flashing in rainbow splendor, into the sky. Higher, they lifted, and higher, chiming and tinkling, soaring to join the others of their kind.

The sun shone brightly in the sky. High and far away in the blue, glittering clouds of crystal creatures darted and danced, sending wave after exquisite wave of crystalline melody upon the gentle shores of air. Among them now were two who had still to learn the intricacies of flight.

And the city dreamed on.

A perfect environment, the city. Ideal for the inquisitive humanoid.


This is very probably not the answer, but there is a similar situation in one of Peter F. Hamilton's novels (so, not a short story) - The Evolutionary Void. Humans find an abandoned Anomine city on the aliens' homeworld, beneath which there is what is called the "Elevation mechanism" that the Anomine employed to go post-physical.

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