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This story was in an anthology and I may be getting two of the stories mixed up. I thought it was called The Egg. There is a story by that name but not the one I'm looking for.

This is what I remember. A man encounters a bright light and is basically kidnapped by a God-like being (GLB). The being wants him to carry out a mission on another planet, I don't remember what it is but the inhabitants wouldn't be happy about it. The man accepts the mission and he's transported to a completely alien planet where physics work differently than Earth, with crazy angles and colors he's never seen before.

The God-like being tells him he'll put a veil over his mind so he can make sense of what he's seeing. Then the man sees an incredible city and meets what he perceives is a beautiful woman with black hair and steel blue eyes. She shows him around and answers his questions and of course by the time he's supposed to complete his mission he's fallen in love with her and refuses to go through with it.

The God-like being comes for him and tells him to get on with it and he says no and GLB says fine he'll take him back to Earth. He refuses and says he wants to stay with the woman. GLB says he can't he'll go mad on the planet. The man insists he wants to stay with her. GLB asks the woman if she loves him too and she says yes. So GLB takes them both to some kind of neutral area and removes the veil from the man's mind and what he thought was a woman is actually a serpent-like creature with one eye. GLB asks the man if he still wants to stay and he doubles down that he's in love with her and wants to be with her....and I don't remember what happens next.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. When did you read this?
    – DavidW
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 1:21
  • Thank you! I read it in the 80's but I believe it was in an anthology of older science fiction. Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 1:26

1 Answer 1

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"The Bright Illusion", a short story by C. L. Moore, first published in Astounding Stories, October 1934, available at the Internet Archive. You may have read it in one of these compilations.

From a review by Everett F. Bleiler in Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years:

Place: North Africa and an unidentified distant planet.

Dixon, who is dying of thirst and hardship in the desert, sees ahead of him a huge glowing semiovate object, toward which he is physically drawn. Inside the light-object, he learns telepathically that he has been selected for a task by the godlike being who constitutes the glowing object. On another planet, far away, there is a rival god-being, whom the glowing light-being wishes to supplant. For this it needs Dixon, who can penetrate to the other god and discover its weakness. Since the alternative is death, Dixon agrees to do as the light-being wishes.

He finds himself on a world with other dimensionality, incredible colors and changing shapes, so alien that he would have gone mad had the light-being not encased him in a protective envelope that transforms the appearance of the outside world to his normality. The envelope also transforms his appearance to the natives, who are weird snake-like beings with a multiple sex system. Moore applies much effort to creating the alienness of this world.

The point of this story, however, is love that can surmount almost anything. Dixon meets what seems to be a beautiful young woman, a priestess who believes that he is a special emissary of the god IL. As they converse, love grows between them, although the young woman had not known the experience before. For this love, she is willing to help him destroy IL, who lives vampirically on his worshippers.

Excerpt:

Quite suddenly he understood. He looked down on the loveliness of her with unseeing eyes. In these past few moments of insanity, learning that she loved him, too, enough that she begged death of him if in that way they might be united, in these few moments he came to realize that the flesh meant nothing. It was not her body he loved. And a great relief flooded him, to be sure that—sure that it was not merely infatuation, or desire for the loveliness which did not exist save as a mirage before his eyes. No, it was love, truly and completely, despite the shape she wore, despite the nameless sex that was hers. Love for herself—the essential self, however deeply buried beneath whatever terrible guise. And though her very substance was alien to him, and though no creature in all her ancestry had ever known love before, she loved him. Nothing else mattered.

And then without warning the great dome before him wavered and contorted into impossible angles, like the reflections in a flawed mirror. And Dixon felt the firm curved body in his arms melting fluidly into a different form and texture. It squirmed . . .

He stood at the entrance to a mighty room that staggered with frantic color, reelling with eye-stunning angles and impossible planes. And in his arms— He looked down. He clasped a creature at which he could not bear to look directly, a thing whose wild-looped limbs and sinuous body rippled and crawled with the moving tints of madness. It was slippery and horrible to the touch, and from the midst of a shifting, featureless face a great lucid eye stared up at him with desperate horror, as if it was looking upon something so frightful that the very sight was enough to unseat its reason.

Dixon closed his eyes after that one revolting glimpse, but he had seen in the eye upturned to him enough of dawning comprehension to be sure that it was she whom he held. And he thought that despite the utter strangeness of that one staring eye there was somewhere in the clarity of it, and the steadfastness, a glimmer of the innermost spark which was the being he loved—that spark which had looked from the blue gaze he had seen in its human shape. With that inner spark of life she ws the same.

He tightened his grip upon her—or it—though his flesh crept at the contact and he knew that the feel was as revolting to it as to himself, and looked out over that shallow, color-stained head upon the vast room before him. His eyes throbbed savagely from those fierce colors never meant for human eyes to see. And though the creature in his arms hung acquiescent, he knew the effort it must cost to preserve that calm.

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    Yes! That's it. Now that I see a cover of The Best of CL Moore I remember it. Thank you it's been driving me crazy for years, lol. Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 1:39

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