I read it in a sci-fi collection book, like a "Greatest Sci-Fi Of XXXX". I read a story years ago while underway on a submarine, about a door that appears on the moon, and a retired astronaut is brought out of retirement to go investigate it.

She and her team end up entering the door, and finding sufficiently advanced aliens that they are overcome with joy upon discovering, and end up unable to do anything but kneel and worship, which the aliens seem delighted with at first, but slowly become unhappy with the worship aspect.

Throughout the story, it becomes clear that the aliens are a "partner-race" to Humanity, but Humanity is not evolved enough to be able to stand equal to the aliens, and the aliens do not want to be worshipped. The aliens end up leaving and taking their moon-door with them, to wait for another unspecified epoch to pass, to see if Humanity can evolve again to join them as desired.

Does anyone know what this is?

  • 1
    Welcome to SFF! Can you take a look at this guide to see if there is anything else you can edit in? For example, when did you read this?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 13:31
  • 1
    About how many "years ago"? 5? 70? Did you read it in a book or a magazine or on the internet?
    – user14111
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 21:08

1 Answer 1


I love this story. It was a pleasure to reread it yet again to refresh the details.

Your question is such a cogent, accurate summary that it doesn’t need any details fixed. The brilliant author and title:

“I Saw the light” by Terry Bisson

It is written in the first person, narrated by the retired “lunar subcrust engineer”. When she sees an artificial light pattern on the moon while at home with her dog, she makes a few calls. But, she figures, it’s a long shot.

A sixty-one-year-old woman does not exactly fit the profile for space flight and lunar exploration. So Imagine, as they say, My Surprise, when the phone rang. It was Berenson, my Russian-English boss from the old days.

This engaging story brings the team of five, two technical and three SETI, whom the reader gets to know well, next to a black pyramid on the lunar surface.

Kinda like Clarke’s The Sentinel, it … just stands there.

Their attempts and interactions bring them inside several times to the aliens they can not see. Much of their experience, even the “language” and “communication”, is their powerful feelings. The powerful feelings coalesce into concepts.

"The thing is, we knew them long ago," said Bee. As I listened, my emotions were spinning, like dust in sunlight, settling as he spoke onto the table of my mind, in which his voice, like a fingertip, traced his words: "This is not first contact, it is second contact."

The crew-members’ feelings, almost hopelessly worshipful, change after each entry into the pyramid.

"But something is wrong," said Bee. "We have to go back in. Once more."

The crew members’ feelings are crushingly overwhelming, life-changing.

"And do I get to go?" I could still feel the hand on my head. I wanted to feel it there again, more than anything.

The engineer’s dog, from the first scene in the beginning of the story, comes into the scene a few times, even with communications from Earth letting her know the dog wouldn’t eat, and just howled – at the moon, as if he knew.

The dog is more than just story setting. He seems to be an unspoken parallel to the doglike, worshipful way the humans feel in the presence of the aliens.

And what he was saying, we all knew.

"They were our gods," said Chang.

"Not exactly," said Vishnu. "We were their companion species, their helper. We lived only to please them. We looked up to them."

"Their favorite," I said. "Their pet."

"And they loved us," said Chang. "And they love us still."

"But they wanted more," said Bee. "They set us free so we could develop without them. They put us down on Earth, where we could escape the worship of them that makes our knees go weak and our minds go blank. They wanted a true companion. They thought if they left us alone we would develop into a sentient race on our own."

And to be more than mournful worshipful dogs howling at our abandonment and capable of more than wagging our tails with joy at our reunion.

I read it in 2003 on Ellen Datlow's SciFiction site when SciFiction still existed. Written in 2002, this story was one of the newest Originals.

After SciFi and then SyFy bought it out (or whatever they do), they kept it up for a while, but no longer.

The internet Archive had a lot of SciFi stories – it’s sadly ironic that SciFi itself called its two long-gone columns “Archived Classics” and “Archived Originals” – but even Internet Archive seems to have lost a lot of my previously bookmarked stories.

Don’t know how long this link will last, but I had saved one that doesn’t show up now in my DuckDuckGo search: the old SciFi “archived original” still archived.

ISFDB shows the story’s home anthologies, and Year's Best SF 8
is archived.

  • THANK YOU!!! <3
    – John Tyler
    Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 15:08
  • You are welcome! I was very much hoping you would see this answer. Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 23:28

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