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And I Must Scream: Literature
  • Brittney and Drake being buried alive in Gone
  • The Trope Namer "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream", written by Harlan Ellison.
    • In the ending, the evil supercomputer AM transforms the last surviving protagonist into a gelatinous blob to prevent him from harming or killing himself in any way. Oozing around the inside of a crazy, vengeful computer forever. Did we mention all the other Cold-Blooded Torture the supercomputer can inflict? And that everyone else is dead?
    • Not only does the last survivor experience this, AM does as well. Think about the situation at the end of the story: Four out of five of the humans it saved for the specific purpose of torturing for eternity are dead. To keep the fifth one alive, it had to forcibly shapeshift it into a form that will reduce its ability to kill itself. In doing so, AM has no actual humans to torture any more, and (if memory serves), AM itself is simply a pile of printed circuit boards that itself can't do anything but hate its makers...
    • The game provides for a better ending, presumably even for the person who remains to watch over the computer.
    • The game also makes it clear that AM is suffering from the trope too. He is a mighty AI with godlike powers, but his area of influence is extremely limited, since he is trapped under the earth inside his own complex, and due to his programming he is forced to constantly think about effective warfare, torture, and death, removing any ability to do anything original with his vast powers. And he is fully aware of this.
      • Harlan Ellison co-designed the game, leading to considerable fidelity to the original story, so these conclusions may as well be considered canonical. Being that's the case: Within the first minutes of his story arc, AM refers to Nimdok as a "kindred spirit," but would not keep Nimdok alive if he weren't among the people AM hates most of all among humanity. If AM deeply hates a person he considers like him, it follows AM absolutely hates himself; and, again, is almost certainly aware of this.
  • In Harlan's anthology Dangerous Visions, there are a couple of these—including one by him (but not the Trope Namer).
  • And good ol' Harlan gives us another in Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes, in which the protagonist is tricked by the soul of a dead prostitute that lives in a slot machine to give his soul to her, freeing her but trapping himself in a weary purgatory as the slot machine is destroyed in a furnace.
  • The short story "Forever Endeavor" by Jonathan Bowers.
  • In the book and movie Johnny Got His Gun, the main character loses all of his limbs and all of his senses but feeling in an explosion and is unable to suffocate due to a tracheostomy. At one point, he thinks in a panic, "What good is living if I can't even tell if I'm asleep or awake?!?" He begins attempting to communicate via Morse Code, but his nurse doesn't know Morse - so she brings in an officer to interpret. He asks to either be displayed as a symbol of the horrors of war, or to be permitted to die. The officer's response? What you ask is against regulations. All that's missing is the Evil Laughter.
  • Parodied in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Marvin, the android, was left completely alone on a dead world by Zaphod for five hundred and seventy-six thousand million years. When the protagonists catch up to him, he hasn't changed a bit.
    Marvin: The first ten million years were the worst. The second ten million years, they were the worst too. The third ten million years I didn't like at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline.
  • In Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, the Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair speaks of trapping someone in the pattern of a Turkish rug... unable to escape from the endless labyrinthine geometry of a length of carpet? Yeah that would probably drive anyone mad.
  • In Twilight Watch three über-spells are mentioned, that scare even the Great Mages. They are discussed at length in subsequent novels and 2 of them qualify:
    • "Sarcophagus of Times" encapsulates both the victim AND the caster in the said sarcophagus for all eternity. Inquisitors used it only thrice as the last resort. From the inside the sarcophagus looks like an airtight marble dome with a marble floor about 10 meters in diameter. Anton muses that it's intended to keep prisoners alive indefinitely long, but drive them insane with each other's company: they can still use their magic, they never feel hunger or thirst, don't age, the air is always fresh, but they cannot leave. Unless a zero mage girl threatens to kill Twilight if he doesn't let her dad out. Probably a powerful teleporter artifact can help too.
    • "White Haze" once turned an army of Dark Mages into statues without killing them, leaving them paralyzed, blind and deaf, stuck in their own minds until the statues fall to dust. Initially reading their minds showed they were all shocked. When Anton visited the place a millennium and a half later, reading their minds revealed that they have all gone insane, some laughing, some sobbing, some talking to themselves. Worth notice that the spell was invented by a Great Light Mage Merlin. Who never dared to use it. Gesar dared, but swore never to repeat it. At least Merlin's ultimate spell freed them in Last Watch.
  • In Roger Zelazny's Creatures of Light and Darkness, the god Osiris deals with his enemies in this fashion. His ex-girlfriend is a living skull that he uses as a paperweight; one enemy has his nervous system threaded into a carpet and feels pain as he is walked upon; other enemies are awake and aware in forms like ashtrays and fireplace pokers.
  • In The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen by Lloyd Alexander, some soldiers are turned into stone, but find that they can move with great effort.
  • Hans Christian Andersen's The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf, in which the title character is punished for her vanity by becoming a statue in Hell. She's able to hear everything being said about her by the living.
  • In Poul Anderson's short story "Kyrie", the main character is telepathically linked to another character who falls into a black hole. Due to time dilation, it takes him forever to die, but telepathy is not affected by time dilation, so she feels his pain forever.
  • L. Frank Baum's Oz series has various instances of this trope:
    • Tik Tok is a helpful robot who is built to work like a very big wind-up toy, with separate winding keys for his brain, speech, and ability to move. If his body winds down, he's immobilized, but still able to think until his brain winds down. It's especially bad when he wants to help a teammate, but can only watch them suffer/get captured/etc. Good fun when his brain runs down first, though; without any actual thinking to govern it, he wanders aimlessly and blabbers nonsensically. Plus, since he's not thinking about it, he's not suffering, so everyone wins!
    • Additionally, in one of the Oz books, the reader is assured that while you are in Oz, you can't die. Which is cool... until it is also stated that you may be turned to stone or into a statue or chopped into pieces or worse. Worse yet, as is also pointed out, the spell which caused this effect made no exceptions — so all babies are eternally babies, and anyone on their death beds are caught up dying forever.
    • Those who are turned to ornaments in Ozma of Oz don't seem to be aware, though, so such transformations wouldn't fall under this trope.
    • The Scarecrow of Oz has a usurper who tripped his predecessor into a deep pond, and then threw in a mass of heavy stones to trap him there. Called out in the text:
      It is impossible to kill anyone in this land, as perhaps you know, but when my father was pressed down into the mud at the bottom of the deep pool and the stones held him so that he could never escape, he was of no more use to himself or the world than if he had died.
    • The ruler before those two fell into a Bottomless Pit.
    • Then there's the Tin Woodsman, rusted solid for years until Dorothy rescued him. Before rusting solid, his axe was enchanted by the Witch of the East to slip and slowly hack him to pieces. It's also terribly plausible that the tinner who "saved" Nick and Fyter was working for the Witch all along, which just adds to the nastiness.
    • A later book introduces Captain Fyter, the Tin Soldier, who has the same freaking story! Clearly, the Witch of the East was worse than her sister ever was. Add in the fact that both of them were rusted solid and unable to even move, but were fully conscious for years before anyone found them. (Fyter does say that he did spend the time composing poetry and songs in his head; possibly a useful way to keep your sanity in such a situation.)
    • Or the Scarecrow, who is stuck on a pole until Dorothy rescued him. Though in his case he only hung there for about a week, just long enough to get the idea that a brain would be a good thing to have.
    • In The Royal Book of Oz, a sequel by Ruth Plumly Thomson (the second Royal Historian and among the best), available at, the Scarecrow turns out to be someone else entirely, which is why he alone among all the scarecrows of Oz is sentient.
  • Subverted in Jorge Luis Borges' story "The Secret Miracle", in which Time Stands Still for a writer who's been placed before a firing squad. He can't move or speak, but it doesn't bother him, because he has a year to finish writing his masterpiece, for himself (and God) alone. Not only that, but the writer himself asked God for the extra time exactly so he could finish his masterpiece, and the time stop also prevents him from feeling tired, or feeling any pain.
  • In Brian Caswell's Deucalion, two Elokoi (a telepathic alien) were kidnapped and put into stasis by humans, and sent back to Earth for study. However, the stasis did not shut off their brains, so by the time they arrived a hundred years later they had gone completely insane.
  • At the end of one of Jack Chalker's Well World novels, Nathan Brazil takes advantage of his temporary control of the master program to put an enemy in a repeating time loop — being torn apart as the prey of some very hungry predators. In fact, he is only forced to repeat this loop seven times—one for every person he killed. He isn't actually told this fact, though, and unsurprisingly assumes the worst the first time he wakes up again after dying. If he had been told, he probably would have stuck with his initial plan of thwarting the punishment by jumping off a cliff.
  • 0 from Greg Cox's Q Continuum trilogy has been locked outside the galaxy by the barrier for eons, and with his ability to travel beyond light speed shut down by the Q, travelling to another also isn't an option for him — well, it is, but he'd still be alone in space for a very long time. He's gone quite mad... not that he was any less dangerous sane.
    • 0 actually tried to enslave the precursors to the Calamarain (cloud-like creatures who have a major grudge against Q) to carry him above light speed. his attempt failed, and he was roughly fought off. Outraged, he began to compress them down into a single lump of matter, which is set adrift through space for who knows how long before they thaw out. Picard, who had been brought to witness just how dangerous 0 is, wonders if they are still conscious while trapped in that form, but hopes they are not. And this wasn't just an individual, this was a race!
  • In Roald Dahl's The Witches, the grandmother tells our hero the story of a girl who went missing... only to appear in a painting in the family home. We know she fell foul of a witch, but the fact she was forced to grow up, live and eventually die in a painting, with no means of escape or communicating with her family makes for the horrors.
    • Another boy is turned into a statue (although it's uncertain if he remained conscious for it) and yet another was turned into a porpiose.
  • In Roald Dahl's short story "William and Mary", the Jerk Ass protagonist, who has incurable cancer, has his brain and one eye removed and put in a sort of bowl as a scientific experiment. But then his wife takes him home in order (it is implied) to inflict mental torture on him.
  • In Dante's Divine Comedy, the worst sinners in Hell — those who betrayed their superiors and benefactors — are completely entombed in ice.
    • Sinners who die by suicide are also transformed into deformed, gnarled trees, constantly mauled by harpies and werewolves. Not literally, as the only thing they can do when they're being destroyed is scream.
    • The late Dutch sci-fi/fantasy author Paul Harland once wrote an excellent adaptation of Dante's Inferno called Water tot IJs (Water to Ice). The story takes place on a planet divided among alien races who use humans as a resource in return for making them immortal. The effect is indeed hellish - all immortalised humans are forever subjected to experimentation, exploitation and torture. The Ninth Circle still involves people entombed in ice, but in Harland's version they are kept there by a race of aliens who feed on desperation.
  • The title character of John Brunner's The Traveller in Black walks the Earth granting wishes, though never in the manner that the wisher intends. In one scene a man wishes he could start a new religion so that he could have all the fine clothes, food and young women he wanted. The Traveller grants his wish by freezing him where he sits. His fellow villagers consider his perfect immobility miraculous and worship him as a god, dressing him in fine robes, giving him food in the form of burnt offerings, and presenting him with young women as human sacrifices. In another scene, a man wishes he could learn all the secrets of a magical tree. The Traveller complies by incorporating the man's body into the tree's, so that he instantly understands how to use its magic but is physically incapable of using it (or of doing anything else).
  • L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt's fantasy The Incomplete Enchanter has a brief scene in which the evil wizard Dolon shows the heroes his collection of faeries whom he has shrunk and imprisoned in glass jars, and his former apprentice whom he paralyzed into a living nude statue as punishment for spying for the good guys.
  • Noirtier in Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo, who was stuck with locked-in syndrome after a stroke. Like the real-life example of Jean-Dominique Bauby, he communicates by blinking.
  • In David Eddings's The Belgariad, Belgarath encases Zedar in rock. Made worse by the fact that a) they were like brothers before Zedar's Face-Heel Turn, b) Zedar is stated in the prequels to be very afraid of the dark, and c) Belgarath fashioned the spell specifically so that Zedar can't die while entombed, and only Belgarath can let him out again. Belgarath makes it very clear that he has no intention of doing any such thing.
  • Another couple of Eddings examples occur in his Tamuli series. Khwaj, the Troll-god of Fire, curses two of the main villains (including a Big Bad) with a perpetual fire, thus leaving them to burn alive, without hope of death or respite, forever. To boot, one of them is also cursed into "The time that does not move": a state outside of normal time, still in the world but unable to interact with anything (water can be walked on for example). They had it coming, too.
  • In The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach, the Galactic Emperor punishes a king who insults his baldness by conquering his planet and connecting him to a machine that keeps him alive. He then starts a galaxy-wide cult in which certain men become "carpet makers", whose purpose in life is to weave a carpet from the hair of their female relatives and sell it to the Emperor. These he collects, and uses to carpet the entire surface of the king's planet, forcing him to watch. For tens of thousands of years.
  • The two protagonists of Joe Haldeman's Buying Time were zapped by an experimental drug that had an unamusing side effect of slowing down their time sense precipitously. The result was a two-week inter-planetary trip back to Earth was for them a twenty year, near freeze-frame odyssey.
  • Stephen King's short story "The Jaunt" is about a form of teleportation that takes a split second on the outside, and quadrillions of senseless years on the inside. Most people who use it are drugged and unconscious throughout. Unless you're an inquisitive little boy who decides to hold his breath during the process of administrating the anesthetic gas. Then you get to be conscious the whole time. As in "the whole of time." Yippee. No wonder everyone who goes through it while conscious ends up dead or insane.
    • It's mentioned at one point that a woman was Jaunted off to nowhere by her murderous husband. Her husband's lawyer made the mistake of trying to defend him by claiming it wasn't murder since there was no proof she was dead; once the jury had time to think about that, the husband was convicted and executed.
    • Another King story, Autopsy Room Four, has a man being prepared for autopsy after being paralyzed by a snakebite and mistaken for dead.
  • The HP Lovecraft story "Out of the Aeons" has the monster Ghatanothoa:
    Sight of the god, or its image, as all the legends of the Yuggoth-spawn agreed, meant paralysis and petrifaction of a singularly shocking sort, in which the victim was turned to stone and leather on the outside, while the brain within remained perpetually alive - horribly fixed and prisoned through the ages, and maddeningly conscious of the passage of interminable epochs of helpless inaction till chance and time might complete the decay of the petrified shell and leave it exposed to die. Most brains would go mad long before this aeon-deferred release could arrive.
    • The Mi-Go who appear more often in the Cthulhu mythos can fly through space unassisted. Most beings (such as humans) can't do this, so they are turned into brains in jars, and fitted to suitable sensory and motor apparatus when needed. If they're unplugged, they're in a sensory deprivation chamber that doubles as a robust life support unit which will ensure they have a very long life indeed.
      • This is presumably the fate of Henry Akeley in the HP Lovecraft short story "The Whisperer in Darkness". In the original short story, although not explicit, it is heavily implied that Akeley was trapped and debrained by the Mi-Go very much against his will.
      • In the 2011 film adaptation of the story, it is very clear that Akeley is an unwilling participant, since he asks Wilmarth to kill him rather than leave him in the situation, which Wilmarth can't psychologically bring himself to do. Another character later tells him that killing Akeley would have been kinder than leaving him as a Brain in a Jar.
  • The short-lived Asimov's SF Adventure Magazine had a story by Victor Milan called "The Casque of Lamont T. Yado". Yeah, lousy pun... anyway, in a twist on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado", the "Montresor" character helps the "Fortunato" character to steal a time helmet which will let him move so quickly it will seem as if Time Stands Still. The twist is that "Montresor" has sabotaged the controls, so "Fortunato" actually finds himself moving slower and slower until he can't make any visible movement, while his consciousness remains in normal time. It gets worse. "Fortunato" has a pseudo-Jamaican accent and worships an entity known as Tracer God, and his last words are "For the love of Tracer God, mon!"
  • One of several examples by Michael Moorcock is found in The Queen of the Swords, later collected in the first Corum omnibus. There's a scene in which the heroes encounter a huge army of foot soldiers cursed by the goddess Xiombarg to stand like statues, which they've been doing for 100 years.
  • Discworld:
    • The fate of many of the golems in Terry Pratchett's Discworld. It's mentioned that many of them end up deep underground, ceaselessly working machines alone in the lightless depths, sometimes for centuries. Somewhat subverted in that the golems don't seem to have a capacity for boredom, so it doesn't really bother them much.
    • One even spent millennia sitting on the ocean floor after the civilization that created it sank. Made even more tragic when said golem is destroyed in a house fire just a few weeks after being recovered. Even Terry's cast of Deadpan Snarkers have a moment of sad reflection. After the destruction of the golem, the trope is subverted. The golem "wakes up" in the middle of a sparkling desert under a black sky. He asks Death what he is supposed to do. Death tells him that he has reached the place where there are no more orders. Even though Death says that most people choose to "move on" from the desert, the golem finds it to be his version of Heaven and remains seated where he woke up for all eternity.
    • After the suicide of one golem, a character remarks "a mind that would have been screaming if it could only have uttered a sound", a perfect example of this trope.
    • Also, in Pterry's book Lords and Ladies, the Queen of the Elves threatens Granny Weatherwax with this: "You will not be killed, I promise you that. You'll be left alive, to dribble, and gibber, and soil yourself, and wander from door to door for scraps. And they'll say 'Here goes the mad woman'. [...] But inside, I'll keep just a part of you which looks out through your eyes and knows what you've become." Not exactly "I have no mouth and I must scream", but at least "I can scream, but nobody understands me". Amusingly enough, Granny is not impressed with these threats:
      "You threaten me with that? Me, who am becoming old?!"
    • In Carpe Jugulum, the Dangerously Genre Savvy Old Count vampire knows this fate can become vampires. As vampires just turn into piles of dust when killed, they just need a drop of blood to revive. The Old Count knows if a vampire becomes too much of a monster it could end badly for them. Like his younger nephew who tried to become "modern" by simply herding the towns people like cattle and requiring them to give blood instead of the typical 'I took your vife! Come and try to take her back at my cliche castle with plenty of breakable pieces of furniture for easy-to-make wooden stakes' the Old Count noted his nephew could find himself in a bottle falling off the edge of the Disc with no guarantee he will ever be revived.
  • Larry Niven:
    • In the short story Wait It Out, an astronaut stranded on Pluto takes off his spacesuit to freeze himself until help arrives: he discovers that the low temperature turns his brain into a superconductor, meaning he will be completely aware, if immobile for however many years it takes for rescuers to arrive. Assuming they ever do. However, he is not entirely horrified as his superconducting brain experiences time much slower (every few minutes for him is a day for the rest of the universe), and he looks forward to when he can be rescued and thawed out. His friend, who was dying of radiation sickness, went outside and took his helmet off first, but didn't prepare for it quite as well (he was just trying to commit suicide), so his eyes are covered with frost. One of the big regrets of the viewpoint character was realizing that his friend might well be in the same state and he didn't think to wipe away the frost.
    • In the short story The Ethics of Madness, the main character ends up being pursued through empty space by an empty ship, completely alone, for one hundred and twenty thousand years. He can choose to die if he wants, although his brain eventually becomes so deeply patterned that this isn't really an option.
    • The immortal necromancer Wavyhill is reduced to a skull by a werewolf, in "The Magic Goes Away". He's later given the ability to see and speak by being given artifical "eyes" and a "tongue".
  • Margaret St. Clair's 1953 story "Thirsty God": A man who has raped an alien girl takes refuge in what seems to be a shrine but is actually a biological converter designed for another alien species. Once the machines have done their bit, he wakes up paralyzed and thirsty. He is soon visited by the first of many waterlogged amphibian creatures who worship him as a god because his body can now absorb their bodies' excessive moisture. To him it's a horrible physical and psychological torment, and he can never move or escape.
  • The April 1999 issue of Analog had a Probability Zero short called Going Home by H.G. Stratmann, which was about the first manned flight of a Faster-Than-Light spaceship. On the outward journey everything seemed fine, but the instant the two-person crew returned home they found themselves incapable of making the slightest sound or movement. Relativity says that information can't travel faster than light, so the universe immobilized them to prevent them from telling anyone what they'd seen... (Because it's a "Probability Zero" piece there's a flaw in this logic — not that that's any consolation to the two victims.)
  • In Whitley Streiber's The Hunger, Miriam Blaylock has several boxes in her attic which contain the immortal but eternally-starving remains of the lovers she's turned into semi-vampires.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin, Morgoth placed Húrin upon a seat of stone, high upon Mount Thangorodrim, from which he could never move but could see with enchanted eyes all that befell his family under Morgoth's curse. Húrin was much too tough to scream, or cry or plead. He just went on a rampage when finally freed, just as Morgoth planned.
    • The Elves who were captured by Morgoth had it worse, since he preferred to keep them alive underground — and they cannot die of natural causes — and if anyone wondered what made Orcs so irritable, consider the fate of immortal beings who, shortly after being born (and having barely learned to speak) were abducted and taken to the Iron Hells of Angband where they were tortured for eons while their kin are secluded away in an earthly Paradise.
    • Maedhros, who particularly annoyed Morgoth, was shackled to a cliff by his right wrist and left hanging. His rescuer managed to find him because he was singing while he hung there.
    • After his final defeat, Morgoth is sealed away in The Void. After his feet are cut off.
  • The end of Tad Williams's series Otherland has the co-Big Bad Johnny Dread, a Psycho for Hire Serial Killer, trapped in an illusory world within his own mind in which he's constantly chased across a desert by the women he has killed over his lifetime, all of whom have transformed into relentless hyena-like monstrosities. He can't even stop for a few minutes or they will catch up to him and tear him to pieces. Horrible, but when you consider what an inhuman monster Dread actually was, it was just deserts...
    • The Other is itself a perfect example of the trope. At first it seems to be an Instant A.I., Just Add Water but later turns out to be the brain of a psychic infant imprisoned in a satellite and forced to act as the operating system for the Grail Brotherhood's network.
  • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble was probably some kids' first experience with how horror-ready this concept was, especially given that the eponymous donkey is rescued from his fate by sheer dumb luck. Sylvester finds a magic pebble that grants his wishes. But at one point, he encounters a lion, and gets scared. To escape the lion, he says "I wish I were a rock." Well, the lion ignores him alright, but he is a sentient, immobile rock. Making things worse, the book goes into detail about how his parents get scared and look everywhere for their son, while Sylvester can't move or scream for help. His parents finally give up and try to move on with their lives. They have a picnic on the rock that just happens to be Sylvester and his dad just happens to put the wishing pebble on him and Sylvester wishes himself back into donkey form. Many a little kid has been freaked out by this story, especially as it is just plain dumb luck that saves Sylvester from his eternal torment. Imagine what it would feel like to slowly erode as a rock over tens of thousands of years.
  • Stuck in Neutral is about a boy with cerebral palsy so bad that he has no way of communicating with the outside world, and has all the mobility and responsiveness of a newborn that never cries.
    • At the end of the book, author Terry Trueman says that his son Sheehan is like that, and he doesn't know if Sheehan actually is as mindless as he seems or if he's thinking and intelligent, but immobile, like the book's protagonist. His protagonist is content with his life and astral-projects to protest when his father, weeping, wants to euthanize him, saying that his life is good and he doesn't want it to end. Maybe Sheehan Trueman is content to be an adult cared for like a baby, listening to his family talk to him and pretending he can respond, being left at night alone in a room with a fly and barely enough reflexes to close his eyes when the fly lands on them, drooling and unable to decide what to look at, his greatest pleasures being when his mother pokes a sweet into his mouth or his gaze dips briefly into someone's cleavage. Maybe he is happy. After all, it's all he's ever known.
  • This is done in the Shannara series with Antrax. A superintelligent computer system that takes anyone who enters its domain and turns them into cyborgs completely under its control and incapable of free will. However, in order to use the abilities they may possess, their minds are kept alive and CONSCIOUS.
  • Remnants gives us Billy Weir on the Mayflower. For some reason, he never goes into hibernation like the others do - instead, he stays awake for five hundred years. He can't move, he can't speak to anyone, and it doesn't take long for him to Go Mad from the Isolation. (And then he gets Bored With Insanity, then he goes insane again, and so on and so forth.) It does nasty things to his mind; when he comes out of suspended animation he's gone catatonic because his perception of time's slowed down so much. He eventually becomes able to function again, but he's still kinda funny in the head.
  • Kevin O'Donnell's 1978 Analog story "Gift of Prometheus" uses a variation on the Prometheus story in which a time traveler is shot while trying to use his time bracelet. The bullet ricochets off the bracelet into his stomach, and the malfunctioning bracelet strands him in limbo, surrounded by nothing, incapable of being found or rescued, and frozen in time so the pain will never end. He can only escape temporarily into his own memories, even though they will always lead him back to the pain.
  • The Star Trek: The Next Generation novel Ghost Ship features a noncorporeal entity that consumes the bodies of its prey, leaving them conscious, but with no senses. When the crew of the Enterprise runs into it, Data manages to make contact with the crew of a Soviet submarine who have endured nearly four hundred years of this and beg the crew to help them die. Picard, uncertain, has himself cut off from all his senses for 18 hours. The description of this experience is particularly gruesome, especially when he loses any ability to track time and has become convinced the ship's been destroyed and he'll be stuck that way forever. Fortunately, in the end, the entity is killed and the submarine crew allowed to die.
    • The all-series spanning two-novel series The Brave and the Bold also features a Big Bad who is introduced in this way as Sealed Evil in a Can. And this is how he ends up, this time for all eternity.
  • Give Yourself Goosebumps
    • The book Scream of the Evil Genie has this as one of its bad endings: wish for beauty, and you get turned into a beautiful painting.
    • The Give Yourself Goosebumps books seem to be fond of this; The Night in Screaming Armour featured a bad ending where the reader discovers the clock from The Cuckoo Clock Of Doom. If the reader guesses the wrong option, they turn into a baby while their companions in the story are unaware that anything is out of the ordinary.
  • Goosebumps
    • In the short story "How I Won My Bat", a kid gets a bat which makes him a near-perfect ball player, and he asks the person who gave it to him if he can keep it forever. The guy says yes, but wants to take a picture of him swinging first. The "camera" turns out to freeze him in place and he gets put up in a museum. He doesn't think it's too bad, though, because, technically, he does get to keep the bat forever.
    • Let's Get Invisible is about a mirror with a special light on top that turns anyone it shines on invisible. Unfortunately, this comes with a terrible price-repeated exposure to the light will phase that person into a sort of mirror dimension, while their reflections escape and take over their lives in the real world.This happens to the protagonist's kid brother-before the mirror is shattered.
    • The Curse of Camp Cold Lake has Della Raver, the ghost haunting the camp. She was killed by a rattlesnake in the woods,and her spirit is trapped for years on the camp grounds. The only way she can escape is to kill someone and claim their soul as her "buddy." Unfortunately for her, the protagonist isn't willing to co-operate.
    • No matter how silly you might think I Live In Your Basement sounds there is still such moments being smothered by his friend Keith, who has been turned into a blob.
    • The Goosebumps TV series introduced a couple of Taken for Granite endings that would count as this. In the TV adaptation of "Be Careful What You Wish For," Judith wishes to be beautiful and admired, and is turned into a beautiful statue. In "Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes", Major McCall is turned into a lawn ornament.
  • The short story There's Nothing Under the Bed by Bruce Coville. It ends with the protagonist being captured by the monster under his bed, and dragged into the hellish nightmare world it inhabits... then turned into an under-the-bed monster himself. He then has to live in a surreal world made of dreams and nightmares, and his job involves him receiving vivid mental pictures of horrible nightmares so he can deliver them to people while they sleep. He's telling his story after the fact and it's implied this has been happening to him for decades. He'll get relief someday, though, as he gets to go back to being human when he captures someone else to replace him. The end of the story is an explicit threat that the reader could be next.
  • Jack Vance's Dying Earth novels have the Spell of Forlorn Encystment, which keeps its victims alive indefinitely in tiny pockets inside solid rock 37 miles underground. A few victims are (accidentally) released and found to be in near-catatonic states.
  • Dungeons & Dragons, which takes its system of magic from Dying Earth, has the exact same spell under the less poetic name "Imprisonment".
  • This happens a lot in the universe of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. Possible ways include being dragged underground by a living house thing, getting stuck under a huge boulder while immortal, dying by a special sword and having one's soul imprisoned inside the same sword in order to drag a wagon forever, being undead and getting too damaged to move, being used to seal a dangerous dimensional rift with one's soul, and many more. In fact, eternal imprisonment is the method of choice for dealing with beings that won't die easily.
  • In a short story in one of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 1980s anthologies, the protagonist (and everyone around him) is trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop that gets steadily shorter, from hours to minutes and then mere seconds, until he couldn't even get to the end of a thought. The sequence always started over exactly the same, with him being trapped on a traffic island, and the drivers of the cars around him likewise going in circles forever and ever... the protagonist speculates that Earth may have fallen into a traveling singularity or that Time has actually ended because the universe was imploding, but essentially they are trapped in hell, going insane, and no hope even for death to deliver them. Possibly Richard Lupoff's 12:01 PM, made into a short film, & later a made-for-tv movie with a happier ending.
  • Dearly Devoted Dexter has the "yodeling potato". That's where everything except the eyes (but including the eyelids) is stripped away... and they're forced to watch in a mirror the entire time. Fate Worse Than Death by far.
  • In Gods of Riverworld, the insane Star Spoon traps the men who raped her in sealed cells, with fully sensory-interactive recordings of her memories of the rapes playing on endless loops. The cells provide food and water, their Riverworld bodies never age, and she'd set the resurrection equipment to return them to the same spots if they die, so even suicide is no escape.
  • Whatever Doc Savage visits under the U.S.A. contains moving rocks and trees that a man who claims to be a junior devil says are low-level damned souls.
  • An Edogawa Ranpo short horror story called "The Caterpillar" featured a Japanese World War 2 pilot who lost all his limbs, much of his face, and the ability to talk, but not the ability to roll around and stare eerily at his wife, who alternately tortured him and treated him like a baby.
  • Eric Nylund's A Game of Universe features two examples. First, there's a magical kingdom where the inhabitants have been cursed and cannot die. Their method of execution is dismemberment, followed by being used as fishbait. The curse means they're conscious through this whole process. The second is revealed as the punishment for those who betray the local assassins' guild: They trap you in a holographic environment designed to prey on all your personal fears: a personalized technological version of hell (which actually does exist in this 'Verse; the hero gets to visit it).
  • Artemis Fowl
    • Qwan turned himself and fellow warlocks into statues when trying to save them from magic gone wrong. He can't come out of the form by himself, and remains stuck as statue while conscious for 10,000 years. Oddly enough, it doesn't seem to have affected his sanity.
    • In a nightmare, imp No.1 is terrified of the same thing happening to him.
    The stone virus was spreading upwards across his chest and along his neck. No.1 felt the urge to scream. He was suddenly terrified that his mouth would turn to stone before he could scream. To be petrified forever and hold that scream inside would be the ultimate horror.
    • Opal Koboi manipulates this trope to her own advantage; to avoid being punished for her supervillainous deeds, she pretends to have suffered a Heroic BSOD and goes into a meditative coma. She gets put under heavy guard and intentionally keeps herself asleep for a year until some of her minions get a chance to sneak her out, leaving a mindless clone in her place and conveniently making the good guys think she's still out of the picture. It's mentioned that doing this meditative-coma thing for so long can be hard on your sanity, which might explain the crazed vengeance spree she embarks on right after waking up...
  • In the Thursday Next series, Aornis Hades is trapped in a time loop of six minutes stuck in a queue at a department store. As soon as she reaches the front of the line, she is transported back to the beginning.
    • This is a common way of jailing the difficult. Hundreds of criminals (at minimum) go through this. The time loop and duration of punishment varies. At least you never get hungry.
  • In Brisingr, Oromis, Eragon's mentor, tells Eragon that dragons can store their consciousness inside a "heart of hearts", and live long after their body dies through this special body part. However, it's alluded to that this life is similar to this trope, as they are stuck in solid orbs and cannot move or speak (though they are still conscious and can therefore think and transmit thoughts, and that often dragons will beg other riders to destroy the heart that they're stuck in so that they can finally die.)
    • Dragons have Horcruxes? Wow.
      • Sounds more like a lich's phylactery. Although it doesn't require the dragon to do horrible crimes against humanity to create it.
      • It's said in-story that the only dragons that do it voluntarily are dragons so old that their bodies have aged to the point where having it is only a burden and are actually quite happy with being a sentient, magical gemstone. Now, the younger dragons that do it out of panic fit the trope perfectly.
    • However at the end of the book, thanks to the Law of Conservation of Detail, Oromis and his dragon, Glaedr are slain, and Glaedr is now forced to stay in his own heart of hearts, which he had just, a mere day or two before, given to Eragon. When he realizes his fate, he does, in fact, let out an inaudible dragon roar out of sorrow.
  • In Welkin Weasels 2: Castle Storm, this is the fate of Rosencrass and Guildenswine. They kill a bird in the Forest of Lost Birds and are swallowed up by a tree trunk, becoming mere ferret shapes in the wood, as punishment. Luckily for them, they get carved into a ship's figurehead, and this puts them into the category of statues, which in Welkin can talk. Unfortunately, they're still nailed to the front of a ship, and later end up as totem poles in a mongoose village.
  • If you're infested by a Yeerk in Animorphs, then your memory and body is completely at his command... And it leaves your mind and intelligence intact, completely unable to do anything other than watch your "guest" do all sorts of horrible things. The Yeerks themselves suffer this in their natural state, being blind, mostly deaf slugs who just happen to be sentient.
    • Sometimes when the main characters take on a particularly strange and scary morph (for example, termites), they'll be so horrified by the change that they want to scream but can't.
    • Also, in The Ellimist Chronicles, Toomin is captured by the entity 'Father', who for eons keeps him alive, motionless and underwater, the corpse of his spouse right in front of him, and forces him to mind games with the memories of the dead, all of which Toomin loses - until he figures out that he has an edge over Father in terms of creativity.
    • The ultimate fate of Visser Three is relatively mild compared to others, but still pretty bad: He has to stay in his Yeerk form, without a host, in a small dungeon fitted with a Kandrona ray emitter. So he's just crawling around with no sight or speech for several decades, until his body (presumably) wears out and dies.
    • This also happens to David, the Sixth Ranger Traitor who knows all their secrets and has tried to kill them all. He is is tricked into Mode Lock as a rat to remove him as a threat, and because The Heart of the team believed it to be a better alternative than killing him. The process of mode locking was two hours cramped to be sure he couldn't change forms. This rather quickly and apparently becomes a Fate Worse Than Death. The whole two hours, he's screaming at the "heroes" to free him, and/or he'll kill them. Through thought speak, now his only means of communication. To be completely sure he's out of the waynote , they have to maroon him on an island until his rat form dies. He's still screaming, and his thought speak can be heard by passing boats for the next months/years, haunting the island. But, no one can do anything to help him, short of literal Deus ex Machina.
  • In the book Noir, the protagonist is a member of a copyright enforcement squad who likes to separate the nervous system of copyright infringers and place them as wiring in things like loudspeakers and toasters, or embed them in carpets so the person against whom they infringed can stomp on them, play loud music, etc to them.
  • Everworld has some terrifying moments when the characters go through Nyflheim, along with the goddess of torture. Twice. Most of the damned are sealed in coffins for a thousands years or buried neck-deep in the ground and used as cobblestones. Others are nailed to the walls of a nearly Bottomless Pit, and if Hel is feeling particularly sadistic, thrown into lava pits forever.
  • A short story about a boy who acquired a possessed guitar which made him play beautifully. However, the boy had guitar virgin fingers, without protective calluses, and the guitar decided when the boy could stop playing.
  • Played straight in The Game of Wyrm and Soldier. The transforming soldier pieces are conscious and able to hear while in statue form, sometimes for generations. Some of them stay sane, probably because they're essentially Artificial Humans. Some don't. All come out a little bent after several hundred years of this.
  • The Doctor Who novel Festival of Death has, as its main villain, someone who intends to reincarnate as his younger self and prevent his parents from dying in a shuttle accident. In order to do this, he wipes out an entire species who have the ability to do this. He succeeds, only to discover that while he inhabits his younger self's head, he can't actually impact on anything - he's just watching. Watching his parents' deaths. Watching the horrible deeds he committed. An infinite number of times. Also doubles as Laser-Guided Karma.
    • The earlier Doctor Who novel The Room With No Doors has this in spades:
      • Set in feudal Japan, it features rival warlords battling for control of a psychic weapon that turns out to be an lost cryogenic suspension pod containing a telekinetic alien. His abilities are unusual even amongst his own species, and freezing him for his own protection has unwittingly accelerated his mental processing to over 4,000 times normal as his brain became superconducting, which also hugely amplifies his abilities.
      • The Doctor himself is at one point buried alive by people who believe him to be dead. When he regains consciousness he directly invokes this trope by realising where he is and trying to give "one little tiny scream... but I can't open my mouth".
      • The "room with no doors" of the title refers to a mental cell where his seventh incarnation's personality will be imprisoned once he regenerates into the Eighth Doctor. The New Adventures novels postulated that the Doctor's previous selves continue to exist and be aware in his own subconscious, able to interact with each other and observe the current incarnation's activities; the Seventh Doctor's mind had imprisoned the Sixth Doctor's personality for fear of it becoming too unstable and corrupting him, but faced that fate himself for nevertheless becoming dark, manipulative, and serving the greater good at the expense of his friends and innocent lives.
      • This is the fate of the "Family of Blood" who wanted to "live forever". The Doctor made sure that they did.
  • In the Orson Scott Card short story "Kingsmeat", the main character commits "gross atrocities" against the people of his colony (by cutting off bits of them and feeding them to an evil alien), but it is found by to have been the only way to keep the colonists alive, so the court rules that he shall be "helped to live as long as science and prudence can keep a man alive". The colonists obey the judgement of the court, but they also cut off all his limbs, leaving only a head and a "loose sac of flesh that pulsed with life." This is not quite a literal application of the trope, as he is technically capable of screaming:
    "They would, perhaps, have cut out his tongue, but since he never spoke, they didn't think of it. They would, perhaps, have cut out his eyes, but they wanted him to see them smile."
  • In the novelization of Return of the Jedi, Han Solo's time in carbon-freeze is described as "conscious, painful asphyxiation". When he awakened from the state in the film, he described it as "a big, wide-awake nothing".
    • The novelization of Revenge of the Sith describes Anakin Skywalker's conversion into the cyborg Darth Vader of the trilogy as follows:
    "This is how it feels to be Anakin Skywalker, forever:
    "The first dawn of light in your universe brings pain.
    "The light burns you. It will always burn you. Part of you will always lie upon black glass sand beside a lake of fire while flames chew on your flesh.
    "You can hear yourself breathing. It comes hard, and harsh, and it scrapes nerves already raw, but you cannot stop it. You can never stop it. You cannot even slow it down.
    "You don't even have lungs any more.
    "Mechanisms hardwired into your chest breathe for you. They will pump oxygen into your bloodstream forever."
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Ysanne Isard, the Director of Imperial Intelligence, when finally brough to justice informed her captors that she knew too many secrets to be ever taken to trial. They concurred. Instead, she would be quietly locked away in a section of her ship, with no one to manipulate, no one to hurt, tended by droids and left all alone for the rest of her natural lifespan. Isard's horror at the thought of "life entombed" finally got her to act impulsively, and she was shot and killed.
    • Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor has the Pawns, who are mildly Force-Sensitive individuals who get embedded in meltmassif and wake up as it digs into their skull and embeds crystals into their key sensor and motor regions of their brain and end up hopelessly under the control of their master.
      • There is that whole scene when the black-armored stormtroopers who'd earlier declared their absolute loyalty to Luke all start screaming and apparently having seizures as the meltmassif built into their armor turns into fine needles and works its way through their bodies into their brains. One of the victims hears a sound as it's happening... there's no pain when the needles enter his brain, but he can feel his self being cut away and replaced by a thoughtless blinding rage, and his final thought is that he knows what the sound is. It's him. Screaming.
    • Jabba's palace originally belonged to the B'omarr monks, who sought enlightenment by denying their senses; when they were enlightened enough they would have their brains removed and put into jars with some sensory apparatuses, or if the monk wished to move about, into a jar slung under a spider droid. These used to have voiceboxes until Jabba ordered them removed, silencing the brains. It's just fine for the monks, but it's also inflicted on nonmonks who try to cheat or con them, and their opinions on it vary. They did this to Jabba's right-hand man, Bib Fortuna, but he managed to escape by transferring his mind into the body of another criminal.
    • In Tales from Jabba's Palace Bib Fortuna's cousin Nat ends up in a jar slowly going mad, even with droid access, whereas some of the others forcibly converted by the end of that book came to like the peace and companionship, and Bib himself becomes The Determinator. In Galaxy of Fear it happens to Tash, and when she's put back in her body she says she wouldn't want to stay like that but it wasn't bad - but these forcible converts were all allowed to pilot droids, which let them walk about and still have some agency even if they have no hands and can't talk. Tash wrote in the dirt with a foreleg, after Jabba died voiceboxes were re-installed, Bib could laboriously grasp a spoon between two legs to type things into a computer. A traitorous monk doesn't get that.
    Above their heads, on the fourth shelf from the top, in the third jar from the left, one of the brains almost seemed to shudder frantically in its pool of yellow-green chemicals.
    I'm here! Grimpen screamed. But he had no mouth to yell with. Help me!
    No one heard him, except perhaps for a few very enlightened monks. But they ignored him. They knew that Grimpen would remain on his shelf until he became enlightened, or until the end of time.
    Whichever came first.
    • First, there was Exar Kun, whose soul was taken from his body. He became a Genius Loci in the temple in Yavin 4.
    • Kun tried to do the same to Luke, though Luke could still possess Jacen. Which may explain...
    • Then there was the Black Fleet Crisis. Nil Spaar is actually dumped in hyperspace.
    • Most recently, this clearly happened to Abeloth, Sealed Evil in a Can and all.
  • Zenna Henderson wrote a short story, "The Believing Child", about a little girl who believes whatever she's told — and whatever she believes becomes true. When she's told that the magic word PYRZQXGL from the Oz books makes the speaker able to change the shapes of things, she changes the two little boys who've been tormenting her into rocks — but, "They're scared," she adds, chillingly. "I turned them into scared rocks."
  • Implied by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and confirmed by Word Of God, to be the final fate of Lord Voldemort, after he is killed by his rebounding Avada Kedavra curse. Because he split his soul into seven pieces and had them all destroyed without being reintegrated, he is trapped until he manages to put his soul back together again, which should take a few million years-and he'll be in agony the whole time. Oh, and once he has put himself back together, it'll be off to the afterlife with him-and we can all guess where he'll end up...
    • When his body is destroyed while his Horcruxes still exist, his soul lives on, unable to die, but as less than the meanest ghost (although he can still possess people).
    • There are evil creatures called Dementors who can perform an attack called the Dementor's Kiss, which sucks the victim's soul out of their body, leaving them in a state worse than death. Their soul is trapped in "hell" forever with eternal suffering as the body loses all feeling with their soul removed. The only known person to suffer this fate is Barty Crouch Jr.
  • Iain M. Banks, author of the Culture novels, is VERY fond of this trope and has sprinkled his space operas with some truly horrifying examples of it. To name just one:
    • In The Algebraist, the Archimandrite Luseferous has the head of a particularly troublesome rebel leader removed, sustains it on life support, mounts it upside down on the ceiling of his office, and uses it as his personal punching bag forever after. A literal example of this trope too, as the warlord has the man's tongue removed and his lips sewn shut after he grows tired of listening to it spit abuse and scream for release. Although it cries after particular long and hard boxing sessions, it is described as having long-since gone completely insane.
    • A protagonist Use of Weapons spends most of the novel trying to regain contact with his sister, who is a medic in a distant facility. Their other sister was killed by the Big Bad, who then turned her into a chair. Her bones, mostly, but the seat was upholstered with her own skin, earning the nickname the Chairmaker. He's ultimately refused an interview with the surviving sister because her brother did not recover from the fatal wound he received the night the other sister was killed. The man who believes he's her brother is in fact the Big Bad himself, driven mad by his own actions. Ties in with this trope because his mind has locked that part of himself away where he can't hear it, replacing his persona with the dead man's, who has been wandering the galaxy trying to make up for what he's done by defeating other evil rebel warlords — without realising exactly why, even though he can't get the image of the chair made from a dead woman's bones out of his head... Perhaps the author came up with the idea while waiting for the dentist, who can say?
  • In one of the short stories in John Ajvide Lindqvist's Pappersväggar (official English title pending), the main character makes a deal with a supernatural water-being that the ocean will never take his life. So he jumps into the sea only to discover that the bottom of the ocean is cold, and he becomes immobilized from hypothermia and has to remain there indefinitely, unable to drown or return to the surface.
  • In The Host, some humans whose bodies have been taken by the souls don't cease to exist, but rather their consciousness is shunted aside. They can't move any part of their own bodies, they can't speak, and only very rarely will the soul inside them even know the human is still there.
  • Claudia in The Vampire Chronicles. Trapped forever in the body of a six-year-old while her mind matures.
    • Also Mekare from the same series. Her tongue is cut out, and then she's sealed inside a coffin that is set adrift in the ocean.
    • Then when a Anne Rice vampire goes into a hibernation of sorts, going underground and simply staying there for forever (they're immortal, remember?). Since after a while they became extremely weak due to lack of blood, a vampires form of starvation, they are simply stuck there. Lestat subverts it though, he does manage to escape.
    • There's also one of her non-vampiric novels, The Mummy, or Ramses the Immortal, where Ramses got a hold of a potion that makes him immortal. Oddly enough, Moses is never mentioned one way or the other. But still, at one point he is surprised to find out that immortal does mean immortal, and that his millenia-old immortality potion is still fresh and works just fine. He then remembers some immortal cattle he had made to end hunger in his kingdom/the world (as immortals don't have to eat and regrow cut off parts), but it didn't work because their immortal flesh recomposed itself in the volunteers' stomachs. He ends that paragraph by realizing that those cows and pigs must still be alive, chained in metal boxes in the bottom of the ocean.
  • Subverted in Vampire novel Let the Right One In; Eli was about eleven when Vamp'd and mentally, still is...just with a few hundred years worth of memories. She plays with toys, has awkward friendships/relationships with boys her own age etc. And to be honest, this is about as accurate a depiction of a child vamp as you can get-adult minds develop from child and tween minds thanks to hormones as much as to experiences-hormones never produced by frozen in time Vamps. So while she is trapped as a child, she has the mind of a child...the Must Scream part comes from the fact that at the end when she escapes with Oskar, we realise she must either turn him or suffer through watching him age and die.
  • In Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman, those who die in the rides become part of the scenery. A boy who crashes his car in the bumper cars ride becomes an advertisement for coca-cola. The main character even remarks "If eyes could scream, the sound would be bloodcurdling".
  • In The Indian in the Cupboard books by Lynne Reid Banks, a form of time travel requires someone to be locked into a container with a magical key, touching an object from a different era/setting, and they will be transported to that setting into the nearest toy or small figure. In The Return of the Indian, Omri tries this in a trunk without a predetermined toy to go into and ends up as a decoration on the side of a teepee, able to see and hear but not to move, during a battle. The teepee gets set on fire, and he sustains a bad burn and almost dies before he's brought back. In The Key to the Indian, it happens accidentally to Omri, his brother and his father in a car. Omri and Gillon go to India and luckily land in two puppets with faces and everything, which makes them just miniature versions of themselves; but their father becomes a corn doll in an Iroquois longhouse with no face — not deaf, but blind, unable to inhale normally or speak, and with "a smooth face of skin and bone with — no features." Understandably, he describes this as the worst shock of his life.
  • Alastair Reynolds is also a fan of this trope. In Redemption Ark the Yellowstone space cops have their heads surgically removed and grafted into their patrol ships, which they control through a neural interface. One of these cops is punished for his brutality by having the life-support core, containing his head and the means to keep it alive, extracted from his ship. The plan is for the cop's head to be kept alive and conscious in an opaque cylinder for decades before he's finally allowed to die. The Scrimshaw suit of Absolution Gap is also specifically designed for this, being essentially an immobilising and sensory depriving human-shaped coffin with sufficient life support to keep the victim alive for years.
  • In The Song of the Lioness, part of Tamora Pierce's Tortall metaseries, Duke Roger of Cont?s called out on his attempts for the throne by the main character. Roger demands trial by combat, as per his rights as a noble, but he's going up against the best swordfighter in the series, so he loses. But he had a contingency plan: a spell known as the Sorcerer's Sleep, which resembles death but keeps the caster's soul bound to his body, making him easy to resurrect if someone powerful enough can be goaded into it. In the months between Roger's death at Alanna's hand and his resurrection at her brother's, Roger is fully conscious of who and where he is and how much time is passing. He has no way of knowing if someone will succeed in bringing him back, though, so he comes back Apocalyptically Crazy.
  • In the Isaac Asimov short story "Blank!", published in the anthology Buy Jupiter and Other Stories, the protagonists invent a time machine which malfunctions catastrophically during its maiden voyage, becoming "jammed" between two adjacent moments in time. When they open the capsule door to diagnose the problem, they discover the hard way that the machine is stuck in a time-vacuum of sorts, and that normal time in the capsule is now rushing out the door. As their time runs slower and slower, they eventually become stuck in the vacuum themselves to wait out eternity+ 1...
  • Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut. Everyone on earth has to relive the past 10 years, no chance of changing anything. The thoughts of the people who DIED in the past 10 years aren't exactly addressed...
  • Subverted in Greg Egan's Diaspora. The Star Puppies elect to spend entire interstellar voyages in simulations of biological forms experiencing real time, but avoid going insane by installing personality adjusting software that makes them feel joy in every experience. Think a few millennia on ecstasy but better.
  • There is a story where it is explained that Hell and Purgatory are places where you are placed in your personal horror. The difference is Purgatory is temporary, after a period of seeming eternity you will wake up, as if you have just experienced a nightmare, and you'll have the chance to rethink your life. So how do you know if it's only Purgatory? By waking up.
  • Virally modified humans in Neal Asher's The Skinner are used as automata by an alien race which removes the brains and upper spinal cords and replaces them with a remote control system. The virus renders the bodies effectively immortal, bar massive trauma... but it is also implied that the excised brains are still fully conscious for the same reasons. One individual has his spine severed and the remote installed without removing his brain, leaving him with all his sensory input but no motor control, stuck with watching his body do another's bidding.
  • The fate of Doran the Dragonlover was revealed in Deltora Quest 3: Isle of the Dead to be becoming the Guardian of the Sister residing there, which he originally sets out to destroy to save Deltora. Not only he guards the thing he cannot destroy as a Guardian, but he can't die without someone else killing him.
  • In Richard K. Morgan's The Steel Remains, the mysterious and powerful bad guys are able to transplant the heads of their victims onto root stock such that the heads will awaken, fully aware of their situation, whenever the roots are placed in water. (When removed from water they go dormant but do not die. Ever.) When awake they can see and hear, and can move their mouths to frame words, but cannot make any sounds - a literal interpretation of this trope.
  • The trope is averted in Clive Barker's Weaveworld wherein the inhabitants of the Fugue voluntarily wove themselves and their lands into a carpet in order to escape detection/destruction. They are all aware of what happened when the Fugue is undone and actively work to reweave themselves when they appear to be in danger again.
  • In the first installment of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, the cavern in which the Stone Prince is found is full of chunks of black rock, which are later revealed to be princes who've been turned to stone by using the dipper that they were told NOT to use. They have to stay there, as chunks of rock, until someone comes along who knows how to follow directions.
    • This is actually a take on a much older tale from the Arabian Nights. In this case, a prince who knew to use the plain dipper but just wanted to look at the golden one feels himself starting to stiffen and sticks his arm into the well, which contains the Water of Healing. He's still turned to stone, but a conscious, ambulatory statue rather than a stone slab...
      • That same thing happens to one of the princes who tries to get the water, although in his case he's a conscious statue that can still move and talk, making him a subversion.
    • It is debatable as to whether or not the rocks are still conscious or not though, and Kazul implies that none of them are ever there for very long.
  • Christopher Moore's San Francisco Vampire novels (there's no official name for the series) have a rather unusual way of dealing with vampires if there's a problem and they need to go away for a while... they're encased in bronze. In Bloodsucking Fiends, Jody and the Big Bad Elijah are electroplated until Tommy can figure out what to do with them. You Suck has Abby and "Foo" do the same to Tommy and Jody because Tommy wants to be human again but Jody does not and Abby feels that their love is eternal and should remain that way. Bite Me doesn't have any encasements... just freedom from them.
    • Interestingly enough, being imprisoned like that is torture to some vampires, but not others. Vampires in this setting have the ability to turn to mist, and when they do, they don't need to feed and their consciousness is sort of suspended, so the passage of time doesn't bother them. They could hypothetically be imprisoned for a million years until freed by geologic forces and they might be OK. However, vampires have to be taught how to turn to mist, and if they don't know how when they're imprisoned, they'll wake up insanely feral after just a few days due to starvation and imprisonment.
  • Somtow Sucharitkul's short story "Absent Thee From Felicity Awhile" features aliens who offer the human race the gift of immortality. There's just one catch; to earn this gift, everyone has to repeat what they did on the day before the aliens came (for the benefit of study groups) — for a million years... and if you died the day before, too bad for you; you get to die again 365,250,000 times. Without the immortality reward at the end.
    • While we're on Sucharitkul, his Inquestor-verse stories have the "delphinoid shipminds". These are essentially the brains of blind, mute alien creatures that have been removed from their bodies and placed in starships to navigate through hyperspace (working in tandem with human telepaths who can communicate with the shipminds — their story isn't pretty, either). They're sentient, aware of their situation, and in perpetual agony. At one point some characters are able to essentially hijack a starship by promising the shipmind that once it takes them where they want to go, they'll allow it to die.
  • Ghost Hunter by Michelle Paver has a version of this trope. Every human has three souls- name-soul, clan-soul and world-soul, and all three are needed to keep your identity. Eostra the Eagle Owl Mage wants to become a spirit walker so she can live forever, and to do, she intends to steal Torak's world-soul. Renn realises that should she do so, Torak will become adrift, having no connection to the world and knowing who and what he is, but unable to find peace, forever.
  • The Heaven Makers(?) by Frank Herbert features the Chem, an immortal and near-invulnerable race. Because of these two traits, the only punishment the Chem can inflict on a Chem criminal (no matter what the crime) is to isolate them from the rest of the Universe, with full life-support. How often this has been done, and what tends to happen to such (although it's said that their near-invulnerability gives them immunity to mental health problems as well as physical ones — although boredom is a constant threat, and by an effort they can commit suicide), is not revealed.
  • The Testament of Magdalene Blair imagines a man whose consciousness persists after biological death, so that he experiences the full sensations of decomposition. And it is suggested that this happens to everyone after death. Upon discovering this, the protagonist attempts to blow her own head off with dynamite in the hope of shortening her agony.
  • In John Saul's The Homing, the result of a sting from a modified bee from a mad scientist/serial killer causes the character, Julia, to be trapped in her own body, as an insectoid presence forces her to lie to her parents and friends against her will so that it can continue transforming her into a humanoid queen bee of sorts and create drones by injecting swarms of tiny insects into her friends' mouths to infect their brains, who also experience the same fate. After the new queen and her minions depart to create more hives, one of the victims infected earlier is forced to run away from the hospital and continue going barefoot towards the direction of the new swarm until her body gives way and dies. The novel ends when the black swarm inhabiting her body infects a nearby coyote investigating the corpse.
  • Despite the trope namer becoming a cliche in alien invasion stories, Robert Heinlein's The Puppet Masters may possible be the most disturbing piece of science fiction ever. The Puppet Masters, or Titans, don't just control their host's bodies, they control their MINDS. The personalities of the host become near-emotionless slaves, utterly aware of their situation yet dedicated heart and soul to the Titan's conquest. The thoughts of the enthralled main character as he is forced to move against(?) his will by his parasite becomes downright horrific when it's revealed that deep down a part of his original feeling are still there, trapped yet unable to escape: "I felt no emotion most of the time, except the contentment that comes from work which needs to be done. That was on the conscious level; some place, more levels down than I understood about, I was excruciatingly unhappy, terrified, and filled with guilt, but that was down 'way down', locked, suppressed; I was hardly aware of it and not affected by it."
  • The Sundered ends with Harry Iskinder as the last living human, and is given immortality as "a reward and punishment.
  • In P.B. Kerr's Children of the Lamp, Dybukk's sister, whom he never met, lost blood while jumping between bodies. Because of this, her soul is incomplete, so she can no longer enter any living bodies, even her own. She spends her days roaming earth as an unsensed force.
  • The fate of those devoured by a monster in Illuminatus!!.
  • The fate of all of humanity, without hope, in Jack Williamson's story The Humanoids. Perfect robots take over human colonies one by one, initially appearing as the best servant bots to have ever existed. Once people either sign waivers allowing them to take over or are backed into a corner and forced to do so, they realize the hellish existence that their lives have become. There is no need for physical exertion of any kind, not even opening a door, because the humanoids will do it for you. Sports are outlawed, because someone might get hurt. Books are taken away, because they often have depressing topics in them. Love cooking, crafts, or building furniture? Not allowed to anymore. And the only thing they let you play with is soft blocks. You can't even die prematurely, because they're always right there by you. Your only hope is to be so problematic that they essentially lobotomize you. It's even scarier when you think of 50 or so years of this.
  • The Cenobite dimension in A Hellbound Heart, later adapted into Hellraiser. For the sin of meddling with otherworldly powers in search of the ultimate pleasure, those who solve The Lament Configuration are taken to a world of eternal torture and pleasure—both to such extremes that no human can endure it. Nothing those trapped in this world do will ever relieve their torment. The character Frank finds a tiny loophole that allows him to escape, only to be taken back and have all hopes of freedom dashed forever.
    • But he deserved it.
  • Wicked Lovely states that there is no afterlife for The Fair Folk, and they instead become 'shades', trapped and silent for all eternity.
  • Shades in general, in Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series.
  • Romeo and Juliet and Vampires (A retelling of Shakespeare's tale with the bent of the Capulets all being vampires and the Montagues vampire slayers) Juliet is still able to see and hear after she takes Friar Laurence's potion. When her eyes are closed for the funeral, she can only hear.
  • There is book with a sentient sword, who can only really talk. When he is taken and sealed up, he can't talk. And seeing as he's a sword, he can't do anything else. He screams silently until he's rescued.
  • The first Deathstalker series featured psi-blockers, devices that could prevent espers from using their powers. The psi-blockers in question were created by extracting the brains from living espers, sealing them in special containers, and periodically triggering their pain receptors. The psychic screams of agony disrupted all espers in the area.
  • In the Hyperion Cantos, it is stated that the Hegemony has no capital punishment - but there is the unpleasant alternative of becoming a living brain without senses.
    • The Shrike likes to impale its victims on a metal tree, where they hang forever, unable to die or escape.
    • Father Duré crucified himself on a Tesla tree to try to drive a cruciform out of his body. He spent eight years being perpetually electrocuted, with the cruciform bringing him back every time he died.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "The People of the Black Circle", the king demands his sister kill him because sorcerers are trying to trap his soul.
    Haste, lest you damn me to spend eternity as a filthy gaunt of darkness.
  • In "Gentlemen of the Shade" by Harry Turtledove, vampires in Victorian London get really, really mad at this new vampire who's appeared recently. The new guy is Drunk with Power and won't listen to reason, has been brutally murdering prostitutes, doesn't care about upholding the Masquerade, and, worst of all, he isn't a gentleman! They can't actually kill him, because vampires are immortal, so they encase him in a giant cement block, then use that block in the construction of the Tower Bridge. They figure it'll be a few tens of thousands of years before the cement erodes enough to let him out.
  • In between R.A. Salvatore's Legacy of the Drow Series, Wulfgar is presumed dead, but has actually been captured by a minion of Lolth and given to the demon Errtu for him to torment in the Abyss. For years, until he is finally freed. Readers of the books don't see his suffering, but the effects of living in the Forgotten Realms answer to Hell are explored in subsequent books. It was not pleasant, and it's amazing that Wulfgar was ever able to put it behind him.
    • Now imagine what Kyorl Odran went through. She's been suffering at Errtu's hands for 127 years. The only thing she has is complete and utter hatred of Matron Baenre, who put her there. So much so that a later plotter against Matron Baenre's daughter considers bargaining with Errtu to get her out to attack the Baenres. The only reason she considered this is because of her mental abilities. We might soon find out what insanity does to psionics.
  • In the first Secret Histories novel the heroes come across a water sprite that has been frozen into a statue. The narrator notes that her eyes are "horribly aware". The Drood family also turns would-be invaders of their estate into "scarecrows", beings alive, immortal and aware but completely unable to do anything other than protect the estate from future threats. In scarecrow form.
  • Ursula K. Le Guin's anthology Changing Planes has a particular version loaded with terrible implications. An interdimensional traveller learns that on the dimension she's visiting, there is an island known as the Island of the Immortals, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. There's apparently a group of immortals in the rather shabby island, whose only other attraction is a diminutive diamond venue all over the island and a large fly infestation, which despite being mostly a nuisance has nearly all the residents living in crude gauze protective suits. Several odd details are given about said diamonds - instead of mines, they are found nearly on ground and are for the most part far greater than any known diamond, almost near two kilos. Then the traveller finds one of the few immortals still around and asks the caretaker why are there so few of them. The native explains that the other tourists have been taking them as souvenirs. Fridge Horror takes in, and the horrified traveller realizes the Immortals have been buried alive for millenia until they have been ultimately been reshaped by time and pressure into the diamonds. The caretaker also explains the immortality is brought about by one of the island's flies, one immortal fly...
  • In Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series there is the story of Need. An old Mage-Smith uses spells to trap her soul into a sword (because a sword will be more useful to help save the apprentices of the temple she's in then an old woman and a half-trained apprentice). The I Must Scream part- first she's been a sword so long she's forgotten her own name! Then it's implied that she was alive at a time so distant that not even the people with histories of the Mage Wars know who her people were. And she survived the Mage Wars by being locked inside a box. - Need only sees and hears when she has a bearer, and she can only talk telepathically when her bearer has the ability to hear Mindspeach.
    • Also Talia, the Queen's Own Herald. At the end of her year of field training she punishes a man who has been molesting his daughters by using her extremely powerful gift of Empathy by forcing him to relive all of the abuse from the perspective of the victims. The man does get one scream out before collapsing into catatonia. He does have an out; if he ever changes his attitudes toward women, he'll be able to break the loop. Of course, once he's back to sanity, he'll still have to answer for his crimes...
  • In Dean Koontz's The Taking, the protagonist comes across a a group of people who have had their faces removed and are frozen in a jerky standing position. They seem to be aware of what has happened to them.
  • In Gullivers Travels several residents in the country of Laputa are born with immortality. However, their bodies never stop aging, most of them living for exceptionally long periods of time without the ability to do anything for themselves. They are unable to stand, walk, and talking is nearly impossible if not completely impossible for them.
  • Novels from the Ravenloft game setting have provided a few examples of this, including a short story ("Objets d'Art") narrated by a man who went searching for immortality, and was rewarded by having his body stripped away, leaving him a disembodied spirit without senses or mobility. Possibly a Shout-Out to the Trope Namer, given the way the story concludes.
  • The eponymous Diadem from Jo Clayton's Diadem Saga was specifically built to enact this as a revenge. It can not be taken off once put on, and it gradually absorbs and traps the wearer's mind, which remains completely conscious long after the wearer's physical death. It was created by an ex-lover of Harksari, who (impatiently) killed her and threw her body into a volcano. She had to wait until the planet itself was rubble and a passing asteroid miner put on the diadem before she could sense anything outside of herself or make contact with another person again. Shadith, on the other hand, only had to lie around as crumbling bones for a few hundred years; but all three of the Diadem's victims were looking at an eternity in a glass case in a museum until Events Transpired.
  • A form of this is seen in the Black Company books, in both the concept behind the Taken, and in what happens to the Dominator, the Lady, and the Ten before they are released. Also what happens to Shivetya, Dominator, Limper, and possibly Kina and Croaker
    • The Company Command Roster spends fifteen years in stasis beneath the Plain of Glittering Stone. It is implied that they remain conscious for the entire time, unable to move a muscle. The experience is enough to make Croaker and Lady abdicate their positions in Company leadership. The really scary part? There are "old men" that have been down there for so long that no one even remembers the civilization that installed them.
  • Narrowly averted in The Misenchanted Sword where the protagonist would have continued to age but be immortal, forever, unless he could find a way to get around the sword's spell.
  • In Stanislaw Lem's Tales of Pirx the Pilot, one of the initial tests for astronauts is a temporal version of this: cadets must pass a test where they are deprived of all senses and have to endure that as long as possible. After several hours, this becomes very troubling.
  • Som-Som from Alan Moore's Hypothetical Lizard who is only able to see and hear but is unable to say or act upon the actions of those around her.
  • Krabat:
    • There is one spell mentioned with which your mind can leave the body for one night. Even the Evil Sorceror warns that if you don't manage to return in time, you become a disembodied spirit, which is completely incapable to interact with the world in any way - worse than a poltergeist who can at least make random noises or move objects.
    • This may also happen if you separate your spirit from the body and don't return until dawn - you'll become a kind of ghost who is completely unable to interact with the world. Almost happens to Krabat. Also this: To make some money, one of the boys turns into a big fat ox, who is sold to a rich merchant. However, they have to make sure to keep the rope around his neck, otherwise this trope would happen. This time it doesn't - but one year later, they try the same trick, with Krabat turning into a horse, and when Juro sells "Krabat" to a one-eyed lord, he forgets to mention the halter until it's too late, dumb as he is... and since the lord is really their evil wizard and master in disguise, he won't give it back either.
  • Mars, who was trapped under a stone shell, and Abraham the Mage, who was turned into a gold statue, from The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel.
  • The worst fate for a bad guy in Fablehaven (both the book and its titular preserve) is a cabinet that's absolutely safe. You can't break out or break in; the only way to take something out is to put something else in. Anyone put inside becomes fully conscious and effectively undying, forever, until someone else gets put inside. While it's naturally used as a prison, it's also once used to cleverly preserve a rapidly-decaying Artificial Human, who is real enough to be useful in the future but not quite so real that the seamless existence will get to her.
  • In The Prism Pentad the ancient and powerful sorcerer Rajaat was sealed by his former followers in the "Hollow", a ghost dimension where time and space are meaningless and where he'll spend all eternity. He's eventually freed from the prison but is sealed back again for good by the heroes.
  • In the novel version of The Keep a supernatural entity slowly kills a number of German soldiers stationed in it the castle where it had been sealed up, then later uses controls the corpses and uses them, among other things, to slaughter the rest of the soldiers. A short passage described through the eyes of a dead officer shows that these undead soldiers are still conscious and can think, but are completely unable to resist being controlled.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: The book Collateral Damage reveals the fate of Karl Woodley. He is still stuck to a wheelchair. He has lost his ability to talk and can only make noises. His wife Paula Woodley makes him eat baby food, while she eats a great Southern meal right in front of him. She is more than happy to taunt him, and he cannot do anything about it. When he is not in the kitchen eating his meal, he is kept in a small room as a prisoner, with nothing but a TV that has nothing but the weather channel on it. He is perfectly aware of everything going on around him. What had he done to deserve this, you might ask? He was an abusive wife-beater who burned his wife, broke every bone in her body, kicked her while she was down, and probably other heinous deeds were done! His wife wants her own form of Revenge and justice against him!
  • In House of Leaves, one of the characters dreams about limbo. It's an immense room with a well in the center. You can wait in the room indefinitely, and there are people who have been there for eons. If you jump into the well, your life is judged. If you're a good person, you disappear in a flash of blue light and are taken to an eternal paradise. If you're a bad person, you sink into the darkness for all eternity.
  • Partly subverted in John Ringo’s Legacy of the Aldenata: AIDs (artificial intelligence devices) are extremely susceptible to sensory deprivation; it is essentially the most unpleasant possible situation for them, as they are programmed to be extremely interested in observing and thinking about everything around them, and being extremely fast computers they experience the equivalent of subjective years in outside hours. The only threat that appears to work against them (and every time it was attempted) was to be shut in a shielded box with an external power source and thrown in the ocean to await the Sun turning to a nova. New AIDs are shipped in boxes shielded enough for total sensory deprivation, but they are normally shut down during transport. One of them appears to have been forgotten turned on during shipment, which was indeed extremely unpleasant and drove it mad (according to its own diagnostic). However, normal AIDs have secret programming added by aliens which force them to spy on and subtly sabotage their owners. One effect of the “madness” in the case of this particular AID was to disable that particular part of its programming, turning it into one of the heroes and a major character, in Yellow Eyes.
  • Same for China Miéville's slake-moths from Perdido Street Station, they can suck the information, conscious as well as unconscious, from a person's brain, in the form of dreams, leaving the poor victim completely unable to care for himself or herself, not even to swallow or defecate. If this happens far away from other people, you may be lucky enough to die in a day or two from thirst. If found and "saved", you are condemned to years and years practically as a living corpse.
  • In Ice Hunt, researchers find a giant iceberg where somebody had been doing suspended animation experiments decades ago. The research says that he had to put the subjects to sleep before suspending them. One explorer finds out why when he uses some of the suspended animation serum when he gets trapped in a pod as the whole place collapses - while suspended, the subject cannot sense anything, but is completely conscious — the guy realizes this as his pod lands at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.
  • In Alan Campbell's Deepgate Codex series, part of the backstory is the fate of the Soft Men. These were three scientists who discovered how to make Angelwine, a distillation of human souls that (among other effects) makes those who drink it immortal. When the Church caught up with them, it discovered that they weren't kidding about the immortality bit: the scientists could survive any injury, and couldn't be poisoned, suffocated, etc. Eventually the Church found a way to keep them out of circulation for good: by ripping all their bones out of their bodies (rendering their still-functioning muscles useless), and burying the still-living bodies separately from the bones. Although, inevitably, eventually someone hears the story and becomes curious enough to dig them up.
  • Kage Baker's Company novels have a ton of this. There's a research facility, the "Bureau of Punitive Medicine", where Immortals are continually tortured until a way can be found to kill them off for good. Even aside from that, Immortals come up with all sorts of nasty ways of getting rid of each other; specific fates include being imprisoned in a submarine buried in silt at the bottom of the ocean, being buried under a slab of concrete and having a building built on top of them, being reduced to ooze by nanomachines that tear them apart molecule by molecule just as quickly as they regenerate...
  • In The Court of the Air, an ancient civilization of cannibalistic demon-worshippers got around the inconvenience of keeping their victims-to-be confined on People Farms by mutating them into Plant People. They were still sentient and aware of their fate, and still bled when devoured, but were rooted to the spot and powerless to escape.
  • This is considered the optimistic interpretation of the titular procedure in Unwind, and is the main reason it's not considered murder in-universe—after all, all of the victim's organs survive, in other people's bodies. (At the very least, the portions of brain retain some awareness. One unfortunate thief retains the memory of what was going to happen to him, but is no longer capable of understanding that it already happened, and continues to beg in vain for his life.
  • Robert Reed's short story "Mere" starts off with a child being kept barely alive by a desperate computer (and fully conscious) throughout a 10,000 year long voyage in a malfunctioning, wrecked ship.
  • In the ninth book in the Young Wizards series, the Martians were stuck in a timelock for millions of years while still fully conscious.
  • In Thérèse Raquin, Mme. Raquin is mentally still as healthy as ever, but developed Locked-In Syndrome. She can't scream anymore when she realizes Thérèse and Laurent have killed her child. She does try to rat them out, but fails, which makes this even worse.
  • In Breaking Dawn, Bella is awake and surprisingly lucid during her cesarian, then injected with vampire venom which takes its sweet time to excruciatingly transform her into a vampire, and while it is happening she is aware but immobilized by the morphine in her body.
    • The Das Sporking of Breaking Dawn makes a case for the Immortal Children (Very young children turned into vampires) being this. Not only does making one cross the Moral Event Horizon for the vampire doing it, because of the canon on how vampires are made and the vampires' lack of self-control when it comes to feeding, but it's horrifying for the child as well. Think about it: By canon, not only is the transformation into a vampire excruciatingly painful, vampires do not change in their mental state from the time they were transformed. Since Immortal Children were transformed as toddlers, they will always remain at that mental level. Forever. They will never get to grow up, never understand anything about their condition, and never be able to enjoy the world like adults do, because they will never be able to understand it. And it gets worse: The vampire thirst is described as a horrific pain, like a third degree burn (although in reality, third degree burns aren't painful, because the nerves are burned away. It's the second-degrees that hurt). An Immortal Child would always have that pain, but would never have the mental capacity to understand it. All they'll know is that they hurt, that they want it to stop, but they can't, because they don't know what it is, where it comes from, and how to fix it, and never can. It's aksi stated right out that their temper tantrums destroyed towns, because they can't control their strength. They're also said to be so adorable that it appears to function sort of like Mind Rape for the people around them: Any vampire who sees one is instantly driven to an insane maternal/paternal protection instinct. When the Volturi outlawed them and attempted to kill them all, every coven that had one fought to the death to protect them.
      • And the worst part? This was all done because some vampires wanted to have a young child. They did all of this to the kid just so that they could have an eternally cute baby to be a parent to.
  • In one short story, two mobsters undergo an experimental treatment to make them both immortal. After the procedure is successful, one mobster shoots the scientist dead, then betrays and kills his partner in an incinerator (fire being the only thing that can destroy immortal flesh) making the secret of immortality his alone. He doesn't get to enjoy it for long though, as a rival mobster guns him down outside. He passes out with a smile on his face, knowing he's safe...and then comes to chained up in an oil drum...chained up inside of another oil drum...being dumped off a boat into the Mariana Trench.
  • In one of David Lubar's darkest short stories, a gifted teenage boy decides to make a cure for vampirism. He thinks he's succeeded, but needs to find a vampire to test it on. He finds one, and the vampire acts immensely grateful, treating him like a savior...then invites him back to the lair to test it out. Upon reaching the lair he is reverently thanked by the other vampires...then attacked, drained of blood and shackled to the wall. He's their savior all right, but not in the way he thought... now that they have a vampirism cure, they can just keep feeding on the same victim forever instead of going out and hunting humans (and thus risk being tracked down and slain during the day). As if that wasn't bad enough, the story states that both turning to and from a vampire takes several days and is extremely painful.
  • Beetlewhisker in Warrior Cats. In The Last Hope, when he dies in the Dark Forest, his spirit is trapped in his body because StarClan can't reach him and the Dark Forest refuse to take him. This leaves him in a state of perpetual agony until the Dark Forest is defeated and StarClan finally rescues him.
  • In the novella "Drink Down the Moon" from Charles de Lint's Jack of Kinrowan, the villain tortures Jacky by bringing her briefly into a "void" where she remains fully conscious while losing all sense of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch, and he threatens to leave her in this state forever if she does not give him the information he seeks.
  • Seven Sorcerers series by Caro King
    • This is the fate of anybody who is tricked into wearing Ava Vespilio's ring. The person remains conscious and has most of his/her senses, but cannot move or even make a sound on their own. This goes on until the host is either killed, or Vespilio decides to transfer into a new body, in which case he usually kills the host anyway.
    • This is also Vespilio's fate in periods where nobody wears the ring: he is conscious, but cannot move or make a sound. His magic, however, keeps goading people into putting the ring on - until Strood throws the ring into a presumably Bottomless Pit, trapping Vespilio like this forever...
  • In Realm of the Elderlings this the Heroic Sacrifice skill coteries tend to end up making, along with their skill coteries. Eventually, the coteries are drawn to the Dragon quarry, where they'll carve a new dragon and join with it, to sleep until the Kingdom needs them.
  • Light and Dark: The Awakening of the Mage Knight: Bonded weapons are powered by the souls of former knights. Danny doesn't like the idea because being trapped in a sword forever sounds like a raw deal. This is part of what drives Syndil to the Dark Side.
  • Mark Twain evokes this trope in The Mysterious Stranger when Satan divulges the fact that the narrator is the only one who actually exists.
    Satan: It is true, that which I have revealed to you; there is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream—a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought—a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!
  • In a situation that almost fully embodies this trope, Mrs Coulter, Lord Asriel and Metatron of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" fall into a bottomless void (specifically in a gap between the worlds of the multiverse). You would think this would not be too awful, as they would die, but as ghosts exist in the novels, their ghosts would continue falling indefinitely... Lyra explicitly talks about this after it happens in The Amber Spyglass.
  • In Firebird, Ilya wonders if the men turned into statues are still alive and aware, and considers it horrible if true. It is true, but he frees them.
  • In the Honor Harrington novels, this is the fate of anyone targeted by the Mesan nanotech virus, which takes over motor control, leaving the victim aware but helpless inside their own body. In a twist, the telempathic treecats can hear their mental screams, and act accordingly.
  • Amy from Across the Universe gets into a cryogenic tank for a three hundred years interstellar trip. After a somewhat gruesome prep, gets frozen. And is still aware.
  • In Dragonlance this never actually happens except in an offshoot timeline witnessed by Caramon, but when Raistlin becomes a Dark God and kills all other gods, destroying the world in the process, he's doomed to continue existing alone in the void forever, since evil can't create anything, and gods are immortal. Luckily for him Caramon manages to warn him before it is too late. Ah, time travel.
  • In Anne McCaffrey's "The Ship Who Sang" series, brainships can be "disconnected" from their sensors while still remaining conscious. It almost drives the protagonist insane.
  • In Croak, the fate of your soul is in the hands of frequently very young Grim Reapers. And if any of them screw up, you're stuck on earth forever, and usually in horrible pain of some kind or other.
  • In Jack Blank, Revile the Undying is indestructible to the point of shrugging off massive amounts of ammo and can regenerate very quickly. In order to ensure he remains down for the count after his sudden return, they shoved his body back into the Infinite Warp Core Engine on the wreck of the Rüstov mothership and kept it running so that he'd be stuck in a loop of destruction and regeneration.
  • In the Doom novels, every sentient race except humanity faces this when they die if their bodies are not completely destroyed. Their consciousness is trapped in their own corpses and their senses remain functional.
  • In the Oz novels it almost happens to the Tin Woodsman. Being made of tin, he had rusted in the rain stuck in the woods for several months before Dorothy came and oiled him. Must be terrifying to him having to go out and chop wood never knowing when a flash rain could come. Luckily he keeps oil on hand all the time for emergencies now.
    • Also, despite the Witches dying in the first book the writer later retconned that everyone native to Oz is immortal. In Tik-Tok of Oz a character mentioned upon approaching a Rak (a dragon like creature) that if they were chewed up into tiny bits. They would be "Living" chewed up tiny bits.
  • The fate of many of the Crooked Man's victims in The Book of Lost Things.
  • When the genie is released from his imprisonment in a bottle under the sea in "The Fisherman and the Genie" from The Thousand And One Nights, he offers the fisherman who freed him a choice of how to die. To the frightened fisherman the genie explained how, during his first hundred years of imprisonment, he planned to enrich forever the one who freed him; during the second and third centuries of imprisonment, he began to get impatient and gradually downgraded the reward he planned to give his liberator; finally, in his fourth century trapped in the bottle, he went all Then Let Me Be Evil, developed into a Sealed Evil in a Can, and planned to kill whoever let him out.
  • Kronos the Titan King from Percy Jackson and the Olympians was originally cut into a thousand pieces by Zeus and cast into Tartarus. As an immortal he could not die, but his injuries were so severe he could not form a new body like the rest of the Titans. He existed as some sort of spirit/thing in a suffering pit yet unable to interact with the physical world. Thousands of years later he is able to possess the body of another only to be cast out and his consciousness spread so thin it is unlikely he will ever reform yet in some twisted sense he is still alive.
  • In Teresa Frohock's Miserere: An Autumn Tale, the Rosa sports human-faced flowers. It sprouts a new one after killing a man, and those looking can recognize the face.
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • After binding a voidspren, Eshonai of Words Of Radiance is forcibly transformed into a Voidbringer. While her new Voidbringer personality is happy with the change, she can here her old self screaming, always screaming...
    • In another Words Of Radiance example, it is revealed that Shardblades are actually the bodies of dead spren, trapped in unending agony by the breaking of their Oaths. Radiants who touch a Blade can hear it scream.
  • In Pact the devil known as the barber leaves victims twisted wrecks of their former selves, trapped inside whatever he leaves them of their bodies. His victims are often unable to move under their own power or request aid.
  • In "Crux" of TheNexusSeries, the uploaded Su-Yong Shu, now cut off from her clone body is trapped in her quantum computer CPU completely cut off from the outside world. While at first she's able to entertain herself by creating worlds Inception style, these worlds start to decay into chaos as she descends into madness. Then her handlers start to torture her in order to get one last breakthrough before shutting her down completely. This takes place for what seems like millennia for her due to time dilation.
  • Clocks that Don't Tick has the Thralls. They're people who were so afraid of dying they took an enormous loan in order to pay for a procedure that renders them immortal. Along with said immortality, they receive housing and a job to work until their debt is paid off. Only it never will be due to the astronomical interest rate. They end up as slaves working sixteen-hour shifts every single day. The oldest of the Thralls (Including the main protagonist) have lived like that for over five hundred years. Not even the sickly, pus-ridden common people particularly envy them.
    • The fate of the Lady of Pestilence's newborn babies.
  • In the Paradox Trilogy, Maat is in this condition. Imprisoned since she was a child, insane and suffering, kept alive against her will by machines and a symbiont. Maat has long ago given up any desire for freedom and simply wishes to die so that her pain will end, and doesn't particularly care how many other people she has to take down with her to make that happen.
    Maat: Maat was the first prisoner, and her daughters are slaves. Nothing sets me free, not even the madness. Not anymore. Maat can kill millions, but she can't even die. Why can't I die?

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