Arena (short story)
"Arena" is a science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 short story
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

 by Fredric Brown
Fredric Brown
Fredric Brown was an American science fiction and mystery writer. He was born in Cincinnati.He had two sons: James Ross Brown and Linn Lewis Brown ....

 that was first published in the June 1944 issue of Astounding magazine. It was voted one of the best of its genre by the Science Fiction Writers of America and included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One, 1929-1964
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame Volume One, 1929-1964
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964 is a 1970 anthology of science fiction short stories, edited by Robert Silverberg. It is generally considered one of the best, if not the best, of the many science fiction anthologies...


The Star Trek
Star Trek: The Original Series
Star Trek is an American science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry, produced by Desilu Productions . Star Trek was telecast on NBC from September 8, 1966, through June 3, 1969...

episode "Arena
Arena (TOS episode)
"Arena" is an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It is a first season episode, #18, production #19, first broadcast January 19, 1967 and repeated on July 6, 1967. It was written by Gene L. Coon, based on a short story of the same name by Fredric Brown, and directed by Joseph Pevney. The...

" had some similarity to this story, so to avoid legal problems, it was agreed that Brown would receive a story credit. An Outer Limits
The Outer Limits (1963 TV series)
The Outer Limits is an American television series that aired on ABC from 1963 to 1965. The series is similar in style to the earlier The Twilight Zone, but with a greater emphasis on science fiction, rather than fantasy stories...

episode, "Fun and Games", also has a similar plot.

Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics
Marvel Worldwide, Inc., commonly referred to as Marvel Comics and formerly Marvel Publishing, Inc. and Marvel Comics Group, is an American company that publishes comic books and related media...

 Worlds Unknown
Worlds Unknown
Worlds Unknown was a science fiction comic book published by Marvel Comics in the 1970s that adapted classic short stories of that genre, including works by Frederik Pohl, Harry Bates, and Theodore Sturgeon.-Publication history:...

issue 4 (November 1973) featured a faithful adaptation of the story.

Plot summary

The mysterious Outsiders have skirmished with Earth's space colonies and starships. Their vessels are found to be faster and more maneuverable, but less well armed. Survivors of these encounters are able to provide little other information about the enemy. Fearing the worst, Earth builds a war fleet. Sure enough, scouts report a large armada approaching the solar system. Earth's defenders go to meet them. All indications are that the two fleets are evenly matched.

Carson is the pilot of a small one-man scout ship on the outskirts of the fleet. While engaging his Outsider counterpart in battle, he blacks out. When he awakens, he finds himself naked in a small enclosed, circular area about 250 yards (230 meters) across. Other than vegetation and blue sand, he sees in the distance only a red sphere about a yard (0.9 meter) in diameter. The sphere turns out to be an Outsider, with several dozen fully retractable thin tentacles to manipulate objects. Based on its method of movement, Carson labels it a "Roller".

Then he hears a voice in his mind that identifies itself as the end product of the evolution of an entire race. While traveling through various spaces and dimensions, it had come upon the impending battle. The evolved intelligence decided to intervene because both humans and Rollers have the potential to one day evolve into a being like itself, but the upcoming war would utterly destroy one side and hurt the other so badly that it would not be able to fulfill its destiny. It therefore chose one individual from each species to fight in this small arena. The loser will doom its kind to instant extinction.

Carson and his opponent discover, through trial and error, that there is an invisible barrier between them, and that living things cannot cross it, though inanimate objects can. Carson tries to communicate with the Roller, to see if a compromise is possible, but receives a mental message of unremitting hatred.

He then observes his foe catch a small blue lizard, casually pull off its legs, and then throw the body unimpeded to his side. Thinking that the barrier is down, Carson charges and nearly knocks himself out when he is proved wrong. While he is on the ground recovering from the collision, Carson is seriously wounded in the leg by a rock thrown by the Roller.

Aware that his wound will eventually kill him, Carson searches desperately for a way to get to his enemy. When he finds that the blue lizard is still alive, he puts it out of its misery. Then realization hits him - the lizard passed through the barrier while it was alive but unconscious. Taking a risk born of ultimate desperation, he knocks himself out on a slope and rolls through to the other side. He regains consciousness but lies motionless in order to lure the faster, healthier Roller into range, then kills it.

The next instant, he finds himself back in his ship. He receives a jubilant message from his commander, informing him that Earth's first salvo somehow caused the entire enemy fleet to disintegrate, even the ships that were out of range. When Carson sees several newly-healed scars where he had been wounded, he knows he did not imagine the fight, but wisely keeps his experience to himself.
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