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I believe that I read this short story as part of a science fiction anthology many years ago now. I think it is from the 30's -50's era, however I cannot be sure.

It starts with two human travelers in their spacecraft, who find a planet with a congregation of spacecraft surrounding a central tower. They land and find all the ships to be empty, and a curious abundance of energy beings. The two men explore the tower and determine shortly after that the purpose of the tower seems to be education, and the two become enthralled in the lessons that are provided.

The story concludes with the two men at the final lesson, where they "evolve" into the same energy beings that were all over the place, adding another abandoned ship to the collection as they move onto their new existence.

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  • Hi, welcome to the site. In roughly which year or decade did you actually read this? Jun 28, 2023 at 19:09

1 Answer 1

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This is Environment by Chester S. Geier. It first appeared in Astounding, May, 1944. It is available at the Internet Archive.

It starts with two human travelers in their spacecraft, who find a planet with a congregation of spacecraft surrounding a central tower. They land and find all the ships to be empty...

Jon Gaynor appeared in the lock and jumped to the ground. He gazed across the park to where the nearest towers of the city leaped and soared, and his gray eyes were narrowed in a frown of mystification.

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

[Later]

The four ships which Gaynor and Harlan had found had two things it common. Each had been built by a different humanoid people, and each was completely deserted.

and a curious abundance of energy beings

As they flew, a small cloud of the aerial creatures flashed past. The things seemed to be intelligent, for, as though catching sight of the two men, they suddenly changed course, circling with a clearly evident display of excited curiosity. The crystalline chimings and tinklings which they emitted held an elfin note of astonishment.

If astonishment it actually was, Gaynor and Harlan were equally amazed at close view of the creatures. For they were great, faceted crystals whose interiors flamed with glorious color—exquisite shades that pulsed and changed with the throb of life. Like a carillon of crystal bells, their chimings and tinklings rang out—so infinitely sweet and clear and plaintive that it was both a pain and a pleasure to hear.

The two men explore the tower and determine shortly after that the purpose of the tower seems to be education, and the two become enthralled in the lessons that are provided.

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.

Gaynor and Harlan progressed more slowly, though none the less steadily. They were not impatient. They had no sense of restless striving toward a future goal. They lived for the present. They were submerged heart and soul in the never-ending fascinations of their environment to the exclusion of all else.

The story concludes with the two men at the final lesson, where they "evolve" into the same energy beings that were all over the place, adding another abandoned ship to the collection as they move onto their new existence.

The beings who once had been Gaynor and Harlan narleened the paintings on the walls 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.

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    Beat me to it! Fine with me, I've answered this one 4 times already.
    – user14111
    Jun 28, 2023 at 23:11
  • I read this story, for the first time, a few weeks ago in an old anthology (The Omnibus of Science Fiction) and I recognized the premise in the subject line. (Okay, well, then, you beat me to it four times!)
    – nebogipfel
    Jun 28, 2023 at 23:28
  • 4
    Narleen, narleen, narleen, narleeeen / I'm begging of you please ascend my man Jun 29, 2023 at 12:20

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