"A Day for Dying."
By Charles Nuetzel (born 1934).
First appearance: Worlds of IF, July 1969.
Reprinted several times (HERE).
Short short story (9 pages).
Online at Archive.org (HERE).
"Only one could survive the Games!""Know thyself"—so goes the ancient Greek aphorism. Today Charles David Travers will be given an opportunity to realize that goal—if he lives long enough:
"You will appear [says the judge] before the National Tele-Games of March 8th as a Man-at-Arms to do battle to the death. In the event you should be the sole survivor, you will be freed, never again to be sentenced to the Tele-Games. So is the fair judgment of the State's Justice."Before it's all over, Charles David Travers will come to see that maybe, in the end, it isn't such a good idea to know too much about yourself after all, that what you see in the mirror might not be what you think it is . . .
- See the SFE (HERE) and the ISFDb (HERE) for the relevant data about Charles Nuetzel.
The bottom line: "Maybe there was once a human who looked like you, and somewhere along the line you killed him and took his place. And your superiors don’t know."