And I Must Scream

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/and_i_must_scream_5442.jpg

"Some hundreds of years may have passed. I don't know. AM has been having fun for some time, accelerating and retarding my time sense. He made certain I would suffer eternally and could not do myself in. He left my mind intact. I can dream, I can wonder, I can lament. Outwardly: dumbly, I shamble about, a thing that could never have been known as human, a thing whose shape is so alien a travesty that humanity becomes more obscene for the vague resemblance. Inwardly: alone.
I have no mouth. And I must scream."

A character suffers from an extremely horrifying Fate Worse Than Death. Suicide is not an option; even death never comes to free him from it. He is immobilized or otherwise contained, unable to communicate with anyone, and unlikely to be removed from this situation — not even by death — anytime in the foreseeable future.

This is often a variation of Taken for Granite in which the victim remains conscious, and the worst-case scenario for tropes such as Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere, Baleful Polymorph, Phantom Zone Picture, and Who Wants to Live Forever?.

Usually, when this arises, it is eternal unless he's freed by outside forces, but a "mere" years-long or centuries-long fate is possible. For instance, a robot with a 100-year battery life getting buried underground. In fact, this is a very common sci-fi trope involving artificial intelligences who are potentially immortal due to being made of software. Unfortunately, if a victim is rescued, he may well have been driven insane from the experience. (Some of the listed examples show exactly that.)

Sometimes appears as a Backstory, if a Sealed Person In A Can was aware while sealed away. Can overlap with Go Mad from the Isolation if the character's separated from other people rather than among them but unable to interact.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Music 
  • "Hyperspace Cryogenic Insomnia Blues" by Tom Smith, in which the singer is awake during his cryogenic sleep.
    We're two weeks out of Terran orbit
    Ten years left to go...
  • "One" by Metallica, inspired by Johnny Got His Gun, focuses on a soldier who has his eyes, ears, mouth, arms, and legs destroyed (by a WWI German artillery shell in Johnny and a Vietnamese landmine in "One"), but is still conscious. Though he eventually manages to communicate with the doctors and military men keeping him alive, they refuse to disconnect his life support, and he presumably must exist in that condition (unable to communicate with anyone, see or hear anything, go anywhere, etc.) for the rest of his natural life. Now there's an unsettling thought. The song itself tells the story rather well, especially with these lines:
    Darkness imprisoning me
    All that I see, absolute horror
    I cannot live, I cannot die
    Trapped in myself, body my holding cell
    Landmine has taken my sight
    Taken my speech, taken my hearing
    Taken my arms, taken my legs
    Taken my soul, left me with life in Hell!
  • The song "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath is about a man from a post-apocalyptic world where everything was devastated by a man made of metal. He travels back in time to warn the people of the past, but something goes wrong during the time travel process and "he was turned to steel." He is aware of his surroundings, but unable to move or speak, and he is completely ignored by everyone who sees him. He is driven insane and when he finally regains mobility, he goes on a rampage and devastates everything.
  • Iron Savior's song "Watcher in the Sky" is from the point of view of the living brain of Iron Savior as the spaceship travels endlessly, out of his control and increasingly unresponsive.
  • Queensr˙che's "Screaming In Digital" perfectly inverts the Trope Namer, taking the POV of a sentient AI which, though granted consciousness by its domineering maker ('father'), is callously denied the option to exercise free will or communicate with anyone else.
  • The video to Radiohead's "There There" has Thom Yorke turned into a tree. A tree with his screaming face still visible.
  • "Brain Dead" by Judas Priest is about a man suffering from locked-in syndrome who desperately wants to die.
  • "Bird Song" by Florence + the Machine.
  • "Blow Up the Outside World" by Soundgarden. The speaker is essentially singing about how much his life sucks, yet no matter how hard he tries, he either cannot bring himself to suicide, or simply fails at it again and again.
  • The second-to-last verse of Current 93's epic I Have A Special Plan For This World:
    There are some who have no voices
    Or none that will ever speak
    Because of the things they know about this world
    And the things they feel about this world
    Because the thoughts that fill a brain
    That is a damaged brain
    Because the pain that fills a body
    That is a damaged body
    Exists in other worlds
    Countless other worlds
    Each of which stands alone in an infinite empty blackness
    For which no words are being conceived
    And where no voices are able to speak
    When a brain is filled only with damaged thoughts
    When a damaged body is filled only with pain
    And stands alone in a world surrounded by infinite empty blackness
    And exists in a world for which there is no special plan.
  • The whole decay process in the song "The Hearse Song".
  • "Moonshadow" by Cat Stevens can be seen as someone trying to make the best of this.
  • "The Song That Never Ends" is an example of this once the Fridge Horror sets in. Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was. And they'll continue singing it forever just because this is the song that never ends. Yes it goes on and on my friends. Some people started singing it...
  • The song "Alien Breed", from Death Metal band Internal Bleeding, has this line:
    I am unable to speak
    I am unable to scream
    I watch in horror
    As the experiment goes on before me
  • mothy's Re_Birthday is the theme song of this trope. Just listen to it!. For any not wanting to click the link, basically he's trapped in darkness where he can't hear or see anything and based on manual information it is most possibly the womb of a small doll.
  • The song Hamburger Lady by English band Throbbing Gristle to some extent. The song is based on a short writing by Dr. Al Ackerman who seconds as a from past medical experiences author. The story is focused on a woman burnt severely from the waist up, cutting off all senses and leaving her in a continuous state of agony.
  • In the Rush song Hemispheres, an emissary to the gods Apollo and Dionysus pilots a spaceship into the black hole of Cygnus X-1, so as to pass through the Astral Door:
    I have memory and awareness, but I have no shape or form.
    As a disembodied spirit, I am dead, and yet unborn.
    I have passed into Olympus, as was told in tales of old,
    To the city of immortals, marble white and purest gold.

    I see the gods in battle rage on high:
    Thunderbolts across the sky!
    I cannot move, I cannot hide.
    I feel a silent scream begin inside.
  • "Nightingale" by The Reign Of Kindo is about a man left paralyzed and unable to speak after a car accident. To make things worse for him, his girlfriend left him for another man after the fact.
    "I was driving fast, with roses on my seat
    And headed home, I was late, with dinner getting cold
    When I was struck in the side of the car,
    And then I saw your face, I couldn't move, I couldn't say a word to you

    And everything in my world was yours,
    When I held you tenderly
    Oh now, my world is caving in, cause you're sleeping next to him,
    If I could die, you bet your life I would..."
  • Gloryhammer's first album, Tales from the Kingdom of Fife, ends with Evil Sorcerer Zargothrax being imprisoned in magical ice on Triton. On their second album, Space 1992: Rise Of The Chaos Wizards, he is released from his prison 1000 years later.
  • Cormorant's song "Hanging Gardens" has the vision of Hell where the damned are wrapped in numbered funeral pall, moaning to have a second chance at life. Others are instead hanged from trees, whispering warnings to trespassers to avoid this fate.
  • The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster's Psychosis Safari describes the singer being tied up in the most gruesome way ever imagined:
    I got my limbs tied up
    And a blindfold across my eyes
    I'm feeling I know
    That I'm gonna have to tell a lie

    My heart's in my mouth
    And my mind's in a furry cup
    A feeling I know
    That I'm dreaming, I can't wake up

    Myths & Religion 
  • Prometheus's fate to be chained to a rock and have his ever-regrowing liver serve as a buffet for an eagle for eternity.
    • In the tragedy Prometheus Bound, lots of people come past his rock — not to point and laugh but sympathize and chat — a chorus of Oceanids, Io, etc. That's probably just one take on the myth, but still. Ultimately, he was rescued by Heracles, who obviously had to know where he was. Is it wrong to find that scenario perversely comical? ("Hey, Prometheus, how're you doing?" "Oh, you know, Julius, same shit, different day." "Say, the 10:15 eagle is running late." "Yeah, that guy's a slacker. [eagle arrives] Hey, where ya been? This liver's not gonna eat itself!")
      • Well, one Horrible Histories book did try for a moderately humorous version in which they refer to each other as "Prommy" and "Eddie". This being an HH book, Prommy announced at the end that he was going to eat the eagle's liver.
      • And in the animated series based on Disney's Hercules, the eagle brings an onion with him because a diet consisting entirely of liver doesn't provide enough roughage. Prometheus hopes he gets indigestion from eating his liver with an onion.
      • Another variation on the story has the eagle being friends with Prometheus, they carry on a brief chat until the eagle goes mad and tears out Prometheus liver. The eagle being forced to do this every day against his will might constitute a minor version of this trope.
    • Prometheus still exults in being able to resist telling Zeus the secret of his eventual overthrow, a fate that Zeus has been anxious to evade ever since the start of his reign.
  • Atlas being condemned to bear the heavens (not the world) on his shoulders for eternity.
    • Then being turned to stone by Athena, using Medusa's head.
    • Although in some versions he asked to be turned to stone, as carrying the heavens had become too much for him to bear.
  • Most of the Greek Titans are bound in Tartarus. As are the giants. Likewise, the Hebrew Watchers are bound in "deepest darkness," rendered in some accounts as Tartarus. The Nephilim were either bound in Tartarus or drowned in the Great Flood. Depending on the source, Satan, too, is cast into Tartarus.
  • Loki, the bad boy of Norse Mythology, was chained to a rock with a serpent eternally dripping caustic venom in his face. His wife, Sigyn, stands over him catching the venom in a bowl, occasionally has to turn aside to empty the bowl before it overflows. When she turns aside to do so, or if she allows it to become overfull and spill, his spasms of pain cause earthquakes. (Considering how many bastard children he's supposed to have fathered with giantesses and the like, one wonders if it's entirely accidental.)
    • Neil Gaiman made Loki's punishment even worse in The Sandman. Same as before, except Loki's neck has been broken and his eyes ripped out, the Corinthian being responsible for both, meaning that now he has snake venom dripping into his eye sockets.
      • Some versions of the binding of Loki state that Loki wasn't just bound to a rock with poison dripping onto him, he was bound with his own son's intestines.
    • Another fun example from Norse mythology: the fate of Loki's monster offspring, the wolf Fenrir. It is bound by unbreakable fetters and gagged by a sword stuck in the roof of its mouth. A river of blood and saliva flows continuously from its jaws. It remains bound and gagged like this until the end of time.
  • Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt for taking a last look at the home she lived in for so many years. Whether she was conscious after the transformation is to be debated, but if she was she couldn't move or speak while her salt body was slowly eroded by rainfall and winds (and maybe some local deer).
  • Philemon and Baucis, who were turned into trees. They seemed pretty happy about it, though, and it was a reward. And since they asked to die together, it's likely they weren't conscious any more and the trees were more of a marker.
  • Tantalus is to stand in a pool of water with fruit hanging over him. Whenever he tries to take a drink...it moves away. Whenever he tries to take fruit, it moves away.
    • This is where we get the word Tantalize and its adjective.
    • Justified, since Tantalus killed his son, cut him up, boiled him, and served the hideous stew to the gods at a banquet. The gods were not pleased by Tantalus' little stunt, and they did not simply stop at punishing the man, but laid a curse on his entire family that passed on to each succeeding generation.
  • Sisyphus is told to move a rock up a hill. when it reaches the top...it rolls right back on down.
    • Sisyphus had attempted to cheat death, so the gods made the punishment reflect the futility of trying to break the system.
    • Anyone who has ever worked public service can probably tell you exactly how it feels to be stuck like that. (You try to clean something, or you think you finally can catch a breather or clean up after previous customers...and then a bus full of scouts or minivan full of people drives up and...)
  • There were actually a bunch of women, the forty-nine Danaïdes who murdered their husbands, in Tartarus who had to carry water from one place to the next. The jugs they had to carry it in were full of leaks so by the time they reached it, they would be empty and have to go back over and over and over and over again. (Their sister who fell in love with her husband had a kinder fate.)
  • In Chumash folklore (Native American tribe from Southern California), souls of murderers and other evil people are turned to stone from the neck down and are forced to watch other souls travel to the afterlife.
  • Lakota mythology features one story dealing with the origin of the sweat: A boy whose uncles were all captured by a witch and dehydrated. As the vapors entered their bodies, they were restored.
  • In Classical Mythology, Tithonus is granted immortality, but not eternal youth. As a result, his body withers and his mind decays; he remains, for all time, forgotten in some hidden room, babbling endlessly. (In another story, he eventually turns into a cricket.)
  • Another Greek myth example: When the gods want to swear the most solemn of oaths, they swear on the River Styx in the Underworld. Some authors simply have the oath unbreakable, but others say it can be broken. The consequences are harsh indeed: for a year the oathbreaker lies unable to eat, drink, move, or breathe (and Greek gods cannot die). The next nine years, in which they merely cannot associate with other deities at all, looks mild in comparison.
  • Hell from Christianity and in the Book of Revelation is described as a lake of fire where sinners will be cast into and suffer for all eternity with no hope of escape since they are already dead. Other depictions of Hell describe it as a place of solitude and darkness. Either way, it is a place of eternal pain with no hope of escape.
    • In Revelation 20:14, Hell is thrown into the lake of fire, showing that they're not the same thing.
    • Orthodox Christianity states that sins are making 8 passions, deadly habits (think of seven deadly sins, when sloth is mostly absence of desire to live the salvation, and despair is unrestricted sorrow.) They CONTINUE to torture us after the death with GREATLY increased power. Forever, as sating them requires body. And lake of fire? It's how damned will feel God's love... while saved people will feel that as love.
  • Greek mythology is full of these since many things were immortal. Prometheus was condemned to this by Zeus for stealing fire. He was chained to a rock where an eagle would eat his liver each day. As a Titan god he could not die and his liver would always grow back. In some versions an adamantine spike was driven through his chest for good measure. His harsh punishment is sometimes stated to also be because he refused to tell Zeus who was destined to over throw him so Zeus would never release him. He got off lucky thanks to Hercules freeing him thousands of years later since Prometheus had information Hercules needed.
    • Sisyphus was forever forced to roll a boulder up a mountain, just to watch it roll back down every time he reached the top. Subverted in some tellings where there's nothing actually forcing him to push the boulder, he's just too proud to give up (fitting, since he's damned for the sin of hubris).
    • Tantalus was stuck in hell, in a lake that he couldn't drink from, with a fruit branch above him that he couldn't eat from, because the water and the branch always moved just out of reach whenever he tried to drink or eat. Although, he deserved it.
    • The Titans themselves were condemned to an eternity in Tartarus, a dark pit for their war against Zeus.
    • Atlas had to hold up the heavens forever. His torment only ended when Perseus used the head of Medusa to turn him into stone.
    • The sky god Uranus was castrated by his son Kronos and must spend all time unmanned.
    • The centaur Chiron was poisoned by hydra blood and could not heal himself, but due to being the son of Kronos he was immortal which would have left him in agony. Once again Hercules saved the day by arranging from him to die.
    • Typhon. Trapped forever under Mount Aetna.
  • Loki from Norse Mythology was chained to a rock by the entrails of his own children with a snake dripping poison over him till the end of time for the murder of Balder among other acts. His wife only provide a brief respite from the pain by collecting the poison in a bowl that must be periodically dumped. Decrees of fate prevent him from dying or being freed. The only time he will be freed is to die in the final battle that ends the world. Interestingly enough, due to the common Indo-European origins of Germanic/Nordic and Greek mythology, the myth parallels that of Prometheus.
  • Gehenna (a.k.a. Valley of Hinnom), a valley near Jerusalem's Old City, has been used in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as an analogous or symbolic reference for Hell itself.
    • In Judaism, this place is sometimes used to refer to She'ol, where wicked souls are sent for punishment and/or purification for roughly a year's time before being sent to the afterlife. The really wicked souls are destroyed instead.
  • In Mark's gospel, Jesus refers to the Book of Isaiah's description of Hell in one of his sermons, specifically that those in Hell suffer everlasting fire, and that "their worm does not die" (they would be conscious of their perpetually rotting state). This is also where symbolic references to Gehenna (above) are made.
    • Matthew's gospel recounts that Jesus spoke of Hell as "darkness" and "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (sorrow and regret).
  • Verse 87:13 of the Qur'an describes the torment of the damned in the "greatest fire" (Hell): "He does not die in there, nor does he live."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Mortasheen's most notable inflictor of this is Willoweird, a nasty walking tree that hypnotizes you into eating one of its fruits. When then converts you into a tree, that the Willoweird then parasitically feeds upon. Did we mention that you can survive for decades in this state?
  • Both the old and new Vampire games (Masquerade and Requiem) had a variation on this. When Vampires are staked or starve for long enough, rather than dying, they are sent into torpor, a kind of stasis. This is far from mercy, as vampires in this state experience time more or less in realtime, but suffer terrifying nightmares. And considering that very few kindred would willingly starve themselves into this kind of state, this probably means that said vampire is trapped somewhere, meaning that this state can go on indefinitely. No wonder a great many ancient vampires (and possibly the antediluvians and Caine in the original series) have been driven utterly insane when revived.
    • One sourcebook mentions that the nightmares tend to involve what put you into torpor in the first place, with Kindred starving to torpor stuck in an eternal loop where they hunt a human and never reach them. Go into torpor through violence, or being staked, and God help you— because you're going to relive that losing battle until someone finds it in their dead heart to revive you. That is, if they don't decide to chow down on you instead, in which case, you'll simply scream inside your immobile body and watch as your saviour devours everything that made you who you are and all your memories, before you crumble into a pile of ash. And that still doesn't end your torment, because it is rather heavily implied that you survive within your devourer's body for the rest of eternity.
      • Requiem somehow manages to make it worse; when you go into torpor, your memories tend to... shift. It's not uncommon for an ancient vampire to come out of a long torpor wondering what really happened, what was a story he heard second-hand, and what was just idle fantasy. Oh, and it's suggested in some books that vampire souls actually manage to travel to the Underworld when they're in torpor... and there are things in the Underworld that don't like them.
    • The Tzimisce in Vampire: The Masquerade do this for kicks to whoever screws with them, and a few who don't.
      • In the sourcebook Mexico by Night there is a character description of one Jaggedy Andy who, as a mortal, insulted Sasha Vykos, the infamous Sabbat Tzimisce. When Andy spit in its face, Vykos just simply smudged its hand over the mortal's face, crafting bone and flesh over all his facial features. Just as he was about to die, Vykos made one of its thugs Embrace him. Now he wakes up every night without facial features and every night he must open his mouth and eyes with a hammer and chisel, which is a very painful process. To add to the insult, he is as good as grounded to the landfill in which he was left, because even poking his face outside could start an uproar both among Vampires and Mortals. Another thought to go through before messing with the Tzimisce...
    • Similarly, the Hierarchy in Wraith: The Oblivion does this to whoever causes too much trouble. Their ghostly corpus is "soulforged," boiled down and rendered into a permanent shape, be it a sword, a coin, or an ashtray. However, official word as of the 2nd edition is that Soulforging destroys the consciousness of the ghost being soulforged.
    • Changeling: The Lost does this to all changelings — your player character is someone who, by whatever scraps of luck, managed to somehow escape. And you have no idea if maybe, just maybe, you were actually let go. You may have been the pot in which a twining, bloodsucking rose was grown, your Keeper gently watering you with arcane acids and admiring the beauty of the flowers growing out from the slits in your lungs. You may have been twisted to have the body of a hound and the mind of a man, then the body of a man and the mind of a hound, over and over and back and forth until you couldn't tell which was which. You may have had to spend a hundred years walking along the razor edges of a network of swords, suspended high above a valley of crackling flames or gnashing rocks. The True Fae have such a wide variety of ways to "play" with humans...
    • In Mage: The Awakening, if an Abyssal entity doesn't simply kill you in horrible fashion or corrupt the next seven generations of your family to its service, it will likely inflict this upon you. Abyssal creatures are less than pleasant.
    • Demon: The Fallen defines Hell very succinctly. Imagine you could see every single dimension - all of them. You can see all the colors in the spectrum, every atom in every mote of dust... You are a being of all of reality. Got that? Shut that all off in a fraction of a second. And then keep it off. For millennia. It's just you, the others who were on your side, and the thought that everything you worked for has failed and can never be regained. Yeah, there's a reason the Demon Karma Meter is called Torment.
  • This trope nicely sums up the Warhammer 40,000 universe. And then there are hundreds of orders of magnitude nadirs that really stand out...
    • There's the God Emperor of Mankind, the Messianic Archetype of the setting. Reduced to a shattered husk, kept on life support for 10,000 years (powered by the lives of 1,000 psyker every day), unable to move or communicate yet his living consciousness is used as a psychic navigation system for Faster than Light travel through what is basically Hell, and also while the unified humanity he worked to build falls into a dystopian hell around him. It gets more into it when you realise that everything he aspired to accomplish (secular humanism and the destruction of Chaos altogether) is being defiled and torn down by the Corrupt Church. In his name. On top of that, the supposed preachers of his word are also the ones possibly conspiring to keep him in the vegetative state, as they're all paranoid and believe that if he is allowed to die and reincarnate, he'll be gone forever and the Imperium will plunge into darkness forever (Inquisitor Lord Karamazov was famous for executing one of the supposed "reincarnations" of the Emperor, much to the chagrin of his collegues). A quote about the 40k universe sums it up:
      "A galaxy where the only person still sane is powerless to do anything but watch the universe die."
      • According to the Inquisition War trilogy, he actually is still conscious and aware of his status on life-support, and still somewhat capable of psychic communication to anyone in his closest vicinity and freezing time to that person if he so wishes. It is heavily implied, however, that he cannot focus too much attention to communicating with anyone who he is talking with, or he'd not be able to handle the most vital parts of the Imperium, such as the Astronomican.
    • The Inquisition War trilogy also details the continuation of consciousness whilst suspended in a stasis field, though the consciousness is locked in whatever feeling was being felt at the submersion in the stasis field. Naturally this discovery is then used by the Inquisition to torture individuals for great lengths of time while effectively halting the decay of their bodies.
      • Hey, that means that Roboute Guilliman, Primarch of the Ultramarines is experiencing this. Mortally wounded by a poison blade wielded by his former brother primarch Fulgrim, the Apothecaries bundled him into a stasis field while on the verge of death and set him up as a shrine (something he would likely not appreciate). Ouch.
      • Unless Guilliman is still human enough to have the same endorphins as humans (and we're pretty sure he is). The human body actually dulls your pain in the moment of death, see, so in the words of 4chan "Guilliman's been high as a kite for the last ten thousand years."
      • Again, point of view is everything. Guilliman is serving as inspiration to his chapter and their many many successors. While he might be suffering (and even that's quite a noble thing in the Imperium), he is also watching over his sons as they fight for the Emperor as he did. Even in their darkest days, Guilliman is standing vigil...
    • A spinoff short story Into the Maelstrom has a traitor Space Marine imprisoned in a Dreadnaught battle suit, normally an honor, but never released, so he is doomed to live forever in a small metal box, with no limbs. This is in fact the fate of all Space Marines encased in Dreadnaught armour, with the occasional mindless rampage, but it isn't always this trope (and is a good example of how a different attitude can affect the outcome). Regular Space Marines, both those encased and their brethren, consider it an honour as they can fight the Emperor's enemies even after death, albeit with slowly degrading mental faculties. Chaos Marines however, being Sense Freaks taken to the literal utter screaming extreme, consider it to be the worst punishment imaginable, as even while battling they can't feel the joy of slaughter and while inactive their brethren have to chain them to a wall to prevent the completely bugfuck insane Marine (even by Chaos standards) from breaking loose and killing everyone. Note that in all cases, the occupant of a Dreadnought can scream, it's just that in the case of Chaos Dreadnoughts, there's no one around that cares.
      • Later Chaos Dreadnoughts and their Helbrute successors were purposely built with this in mind, their sarcophagi reconfigured to drive the occupants into madness, which the occupants can never get used to either.
      • Any Daemon Weapon or a bound Daemon results in this on a Eldritch Abomination. The daemon is so crazy that he will attempt to devour its wielder just so it can get some sort of outside contact, even though such an act would result in the weapon being rendered inert again.
    • Fulgrim has an impressive one of these, as the primarch Fulgrim is eventually completely possessed by the demon joyriding in him, who keeps him fully aware of its actions in his body, which is mutated by the demon into something more pleasing to it. While his soul was trapped inside a portrait. As this occurred during the Horus Heresy, the fate is up to 10,000 years and running.
      • Not necessarily; Horus vowed that he would free Fulgrim from that particular fate, and there's a chance he managed it before dying. We'll have to wait and see.
      • Then its revealed that Fulgrim had successfully regain control of his body, and he trapped the deamon in the portrait he was trapped in, and is fully embraced his new form as a Daemon Prince.
      • This could be a case of Cursed with Awesome, as all fallen Primarchs are now Daemon Princes.
      • The primarch Lorgar spends his entire time thinking about the true nature of Chaos.
    • Haemonculi do this to their victims, surgically altering their bodies until they are, say, a collection of organs still alive and sentient, or a sack of helpless flesh. The Haemonculi arts, however, are in fact required by the Dark Eldar to survive (pain and the suffering of others apparently grants them immortality so that they in turn do not suffer this trope under Slaanesh). Needless to say, this may very well apply to every single slave of the Dark Eldar.
      • In Nightbringer, the Ultramarines find a victim of a Haemonculus on Pavonis that was entirely dissected and hung piece by piece like a blown-apart cross section of a human being. Then they see that the various pieces and organs of the victim are still connected by veins and nerve strands. THEN they realize the victim is still alive and feeling every agonizing moment, and is trying to rasp "kill me" at the marines. It freaks the fearless Ultramarines out so much they open fire and euthanize everything in the vicinity to splinters. High octane nightmare fuel indeed.
    • The Eldar as a whole. Once Eldar die, their souls are still fully conscious in the Warp and then immediately sucked into a hellish disgusting vortex by Slaanesh to eternally torture and rape them in countless different ways day and night forever and ever. Thus it is completely necessary for them to make gut-wrenching sacrifices, including manipulating entire civilizations into destroying each other (and in the case of the Dark Eldar, torturing other species as sacrifice to appease said god of pain), just so that they can save one of their own. All Eldar need to carry with them a Spirit Stone (or Waystone in some versions) that absorb their soul upon death, preventing Slaanesh from getting his hands on them. These same stones can be used to revive them in the form of a Wraithguard or Wraithlord or (in the case of farseers) put into the craftworld to join a crystal wall of seers for all of eternity, sharing their knowledge with their descendants. However, it's known that several craftworlds are desolate and completely devoid of life, as well as eldar falling on foreign worlds, their stones remain unretrieved for possibly many years, or never. They will be stuck alone, unable to communicate with anyone (it's stated that they only join their ancestors once their spirit stones are attached to the infinity circuit), for all that time. And you know what? This fate is still far better than the other gruesome alternative.
      • A similar fate happens to Exarchs. These are warriors who are lost upon their path of war and unable to leave it, becoming instructors to others that want to learn the art as well as leaders in war. Each Exarch, upon death, would merge with their suit rather than their Spirit Stone, so that they may once again join the next generation of warriors when their suit is donned again (they merge spirits with whoever wears the suit). Phoenix lords go through the same thing, except that their personality completely dominates the other souls. Much like the Spirit stones, it's implied that many exarch, and some phoenix lords, now lay on some forgotten world, their suit lost forever and unable to communicate with anyone.
      • Funny you should mention the Dark Eldar, they quite literally feed on the suffering of their captives and are skilled enough to keep one alive for months or even years under torture. Sometimes they'll actually allow a slave to die or kill themselves only to bring them back alive and feed on their despair when they wake up again from their death on the operating table of a Haemonculi.
    • Still nothing compared to the Outsider and possibly some Necrons - they were imprisoned before humans ever arose, on the order of some 60 million years. When awake the Necrons fall into this trope, completely subservient automatons trapped within effectively immortal metal shells. Most Necrons are "fortunately" mindless and probably not aware of their situation, but Necron Lords most definitely are.
    • Almost the entire Thousand Sons Legion suffers from this, as a screwed up spell caused most of them to be reduced to dust with their souls trapped in their armour. They can still move (and fight) but are utterly enslaved to Ahrihman and the other non-dusted leaders.
    • One of Slaanesh's circles of temptation is filled with fantastical treasures. Anyone who touches one of the golden statues will be turned into gold himself, while his soul remains fully conscious.
      • Speaking of Slannesh, there's also his champion, Lucius the Eternal, a complete monster by many people's standards (Even his fellow Chaos Space Marines consider him a monster amongst monsters), who cannot die. To be specific if, by some rare chance you do kill him, if you feel the smallest amount of satsifaction for your deed, you will ever so slowly be transformed into Lucius. Eventually nothing will be left of you, except for a new , throbbing face with an eternal scream fixed onto it on Lucius' armor, and in the 10,000 or so years that he has been killing (And been killed) he has dozens, if not hundreds of those faces covering his armor.
    • In the new Necron codex, there is mention of a crownworld where an alien prophet's head is kept alive in stasis to predict the future. It's implied to have been stuck there for the past 60 million years.
    • There is also a daemon that was banished and trapped within its own skull by the Grey Knights, and is kept in that state by the constant chanting of acolytes.
    • The Grey Knights' Vault of Labyrinths has several dozen Soul Jars that contain daemons trapped inside them.
    • A milder example occurred in the short story "Among Fiends". The Chaos Champion Scaevolla is forced by the gods to choose between hunting down the progeny of his former best fried for all eternity or spawnhood. He isn't pleased.
    • Space Wolves member Lukas the Trickster replaced one of his two hearts with a stasis bomb, set to go off when his remaining one stops beating. Whoever's caught with him in the blast will be trapped in an eternal time loop of a few seconds, forced to hear him laugh as his very last, and very best prank pays off, for eternity.
  • Warhammer Fantasy has Count Mordrek the Damned, which under normal circumstances would be a redundant title for any Chaos warrior. This one suffers from constant and horrific mutations, but unlike most that suffer this fate, he remains sealed inside his armor, and his mind has been left intact. It's also mentioned that every time he dies the Chaos gods resurrect him, and this has been going on for so long that no one remembers which god he worshiped, or what he did to offend them.
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • The setting has the Imprisonment spell, which entombs the subject for an indefinite amount of time somewhere "far beneath the surface of the earth". Normally, this spell is not an example as the victim is put in Suspended Animation and won't remember any part of its imprisonment when released. However, in Baldur's Gate this is not the case as the player is threatened with this spell (and the emphasis of suffering) by a Harper, and one can free a number of people from an artifact that imprisons users in the Underdark; all but two (one who'd only been in there for days, and another who was The Undead and presumably too crazy to be affected) are alive but incurably insane.
    • The magic item the Mirror of Life Trapping can be used as a trap, a prison, or both. If a sentient being sees his reflection, he's drawn inside it, and kept in one of several cells, which can theoretically hold him forever. Even worse, a command word (usually known by the mirror's owner) can call a prisoner's image forth to be questioned. (The potential for abuse by diabolical villains is great; fortunately, all prisoners in a mirror can be released by breaking it, which is rather easy.)
    • The supplement Book of Vile Darkness has the spell Eternity of Torture, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Like most Vile Magic, only wizards who have already fallen past the Moral Event Horizon would consider using it.
    • The second Monster Manual in the 4th Edition describes a specific case, the fate of the Primordial Storralk, who challenged Demogorgon for the title of Prince of Demons and came very close to winning. Demogorgon spared him, but ripped his body to pieces, and used the still-living pieces to construct his throne room. Storralk still lives in this state, and the two-headed giants called ettins were originally spawned from his body, including Demogorgon's powerful Exarch Trarak. (Legend says that Storralk can be released from his imprisonment if Tharak is slain and her heart burned upon Demogorgon's throne; the freed Primordial could prove a valuable ally for anyone who would challenge the Prince of Demons.)
    • The splatbook Faces of Evil: The Fiends mentions the Tower of Incarnate Pain, under construction by the yugoloths on Carceri. It is made of both dead souls and any mortal beings who come too close to it; they are absorbed by the Tower and turned into bricks. Fortunately, all victims have been allowed to die eventually, because the yugoloths can't seem to keep the thing up. Three times, the geheleths have attacked the Tower and torn it into pieces, the absorbed victims screaming in the process.
    • It's hard to feel sorry for an aboleth, but as aquatic creatures, they can't breathe air for very long, and they do not "drown" if they are separated from the water too long. Instead, they enter a state called "Long Dreaming" which they consider far worse than death; a thick membrane forms around the aboleth, and it enters a state of suspended animation where it experiences hideous nightmares. (Of course, an aboleth in such a state is a sitting duck if an enemy - which is most other races - finds it, so it's usually killed soon anyway.)
    • The splatbook Hordes of the Abyss from 3.5 edition expands upon Demonic Possession and what it entails. One in particular, the transformer possession, allows the possessing demon to transform part of their host's body into a demonic shape. This trope comes into play when the demon completely transforms the victim; the book says "the demon has essentially replaced" the victim, leaving them trapped inside with no way to communicate or even fight from within AND having to see every atrocity the demon is committing.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons' setting Ravenloft has a monster known as the Wall of Flesh. It's created when the rage and fear of a person who has been imprisoned within a wall mixes with Ravenloft's special flavor of magic.
    • Several named NPCs of the Land of Mists have likewise suffered this fate. Elise Mordenheim, trapped in a decaying and shattered body that her Mad Scientist husband struggles in vain to restore, is perhaps the most prominent example.
  • In the Forgotten Realms campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons, this is the fate of all souls that are judged to be Faithless or False (that is, being a Flat-Earth Atheist or subverting the faith you profess to) without another god interceding on their behalf: Their souls are stuck in the Wall of the Faithless, to spend eternity as mortar for the Wall while their souls are slowly digested into nothingness. The Wall was constructed by Myrkul, former God of the Dead, simply because it was his prerogative to decide what would happen to souls that no-one else would take responsibility for. By the time Myrkul was dethroned many centuries later, the Wall had become a necessity because Gods Need Prayer Badly.
  • The Transmogrification spell from GURPS: Magic keeps the target's mind intact and active but makes them in to an inanimate object for a while. The Entombment spell traps the target in a tiny bubble deep beneath the earth for eternity unless it is somehow undone.
  • Exalted, like Wraith: The Oblivion, has soulforging as a common practice in the Underworld. It goes past "common" — soulsteel is considered one of the five magical materials, and the Deathlords are all too willing to make their undead subjects into arms and armor for their Abyssal soldiers.
    • Made worse in that soulsteel was around before there was an Underworld. Autochthon, the great maker, had a race he made that pissed him off so much that he melted their entire civilization into slag and removed all references to them, and THEN took their souls and forged them into soulsteel inside his body.
    • The Ebon Dragon has Charms that allow him to banish victims to a horrifying darkness beyond reality where they are completely alone and from which there is no escape.
    • The Neverborn, who are simply too powerful to die, are locked in an eternal nightmare from which there is no obvious escape. This is how they can be sympathetic despite their plan (insofar as they are sane enough to have one) being the complete obliteration of everything that exists - because this is quite possibly the only way for them to finally escape.
    • There is also the relatively mundane and often contested example from the First Age, where a Solar made an instrument that works by torturing various mortals, their screams made supernaturally beautiful, and the mortals are not allowed to die.
  • Ravi, a planeswalker in the world of Ulgrotha, was desperate to end a huge war. She did so by ringing the Apocalypse Chime, which wiped out the whole battlefield of its warring parties, and put herself in a magic coffin designed by her mentor to avoid the destruction. Unfortunately, she didn't ascertain how to get OUT. She was eventually found by Baron Sengir, becoming the "delightfully" mad Grandmother Sengir.
  • In Burning Empires, infection by a Vaylen is treated much the same way as character permadeath because the infected character is irreversibly rendered unable to control its own body, effectively comatose, even when there's no worm driving it around.
  • In Monsters And Other Childish Things, the empty skin of a person an Excruciator has hollowed out into a Living Bodysuit is explicitly mentioned to be still live and conscious. No, the game doesn't even hint that there's any way to restore a person from this.
  • The canonical fiction of Cyberpunk 2020 has Alt Cunningham's personality/mind transfered into cyberspace by the evil Arasaka Corporation. When the connection to her lifeless body is severed, she becomes permanently trapped in there: "Behind the walls of monitors, a disembodied Alt screams to [her boyfriend]".
  • While the Immortality gift from Nobilis explicitly protects you from attempts to pull this, this doesn't stop it being played straight in some of the border fictions.
  • The Experiments Gone Horribly Wrong of Bleak World are defined by multiple different personalities that cannot directly control the body, but can talk to the prime consciousness. However, various perks allow experiments to silence, but not outright destroy, these personalities. Essentially this traps them in a state where they can see and experience everything they do, but never even affect the decision.
  • Magic: The Gathering's exile mechanic tend to use this trope (or otherwise a Fate Worse Than Death) or Cessation of Existence to remove a creature from the game, such as the case with Unmake
    • On Kamigawa, the corrupt emperor Konda attained immortality, and was promptly imprisoned indefinitely as punishment.
    • Daxos of Meletis was killed by a Brainwashed and Crazy Elspeth, who later strikes a deal with the god of the Theros Underworld Erebos, trading her soul for Daxos to return to life before she is killed by Heliod. Unfortunately, Erebos cheats her out of this deal by bringing Daxos back to life as a Returned, eternally bound to seek out Elsepth even though she is dead.

    Theater 
  • Downplayed and even made slightly humorous in Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. At the end of Act One, all of the characters we've seen throughout the first act form a living tableau of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat's masterpiece. It's a beautiful, powerful image...until Act Two begins. It's been one hundred years, and the people in that idyllic park scene have been trapped there all of that time. While they're able to stretch slightly, they can only do so for a few seconds before they have to return to their positions. Time has stopped for them, and while they can't age, they're also wearing many thick layers of clothing on a blisteringly hot summer day, surrounded by people they've come to despise in the past century, and frozen exactly as they were the moment the painting was finished (a little girl with bad vision isn't wearing her glasses, so her vision will always be hopelessly blurred, and her hands are sticky; a boatman with bad hygiene has his odor lingering around him—and those sitting near him—and so on). And so long as art historians keep restoring La Grande Jatte, they're going to be stuck like that forever.
  • In the musical adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, the Enchantress's curse becomes one of these. Rather than automatically changing the Prince and his servants into a hideous beast and random household objects (presumably because there was no way to costume that convincingly), the spell instead works extremely slowly; the humans retain their normal sizes and shapes, but as time passes, they become more thing-like as their human features and appendages are gradually replaced with inanimate parts. It's never made clear whether or not completely transforming into an object (a fate that's befallen some of the servants already) kills you or traps your still-conscious mind in a piece of bric-a-brac without any sensory organs, but still very much alive.
  • Poor Lavinia, in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, undergoes this fate. After being raped by two of Tamora's sons, they cut her tongue from her mouth and chop off her hands so she can't communicate what's happened to her. Though she eventually devises a way to tell her father who committed the crime, she's still a virtually helpless, badly traumatized girl who can never speak again.
  • Wicked has a particularly ambiguous and downright disturbing example. It's said throughout the play that animals are losing their power of speech, and if applicable, their ability to walk on two legs. But we're never told whether or not they actually remember when they could walk and talk, leaving one of two possibilities…either they have forgotten their own "sentience", or they are "psychologically tortured to the point of not speaking out for fear something will happen." Something Bad indeed.

    Toys 
  • BIONICLE has the Eldritch Abomination Tren Krom, who had his body sealed to an island and was rendered completely immobile. Furthermore, he was so hideous that anyone who looked at him ran the risk of going insane. Then, he went and tricked Lewa into switching bodies with him, leaving poor Lewa stranded on an isolated island in a monstrous, tentacled body, unable to move around, not being able to speak except via telepathy, and with no hope of rescue since his friends think he's still with them, if acting a bit strangely. It got reversed in the end, and after a while, Tren Krom was finally granted his freedom. And then murdered off screen instantly.
  • According to Sine's backstory in Little Apple Dolls she was transported to a purgatory full of people stuck in this fate after she died. It's referred to as "the inbetween" between life and death.
    The Little Girl saw many like her. They were pale and hollow eyed. Lost and lonely. Some, their eyes sealed shut and their mouths wiped away. They could not speak. They could not see. Their time before, was cut short by being real sick and having their lives taken by force. A little boy ran up towards her and shook her; he was speaking but she could not understand. He spoke in rustling leaves and sirens.

    Web Comics 
  • Trolls in Stand Still, Stay Silent are humans who undergone Viral Transformation by Rash Illness and turned into twisted, vicious, murderous monsters. Chapter 3 revealed that they are still conscious. After ninety years.
  • The Dragon Doctors brings us the story of Rina, who was Taken for Granite and left for two thousand years in a cave with nobody to talk to and no sensation at all (thankfully, she was only conscious for the first days). Fortunately the eponymous doctors rescued her. The comic also features Tanica, who was accidentally turned into a tree by Sarin. She can communicate with the others through magic, though.
    • Sarin actually was turned into a tree by his/her mentor as a lesson.
    • It's later revealed that a government did this to people who broke their no bodily alterations rule, just in case those people were ever needed. How useful those people would be after years, decades, even centuries as statues is questionable at best.x
    • At one point some criminals petrified the crew of a Coast Guard ship and threw them overboard. Not only were they still conscious they could feel the water flooding their lungs so it was like drowning without end.
  • xkcd did a pretty literal one; it also skewers a classic schoolyard Lame Comeback as well.
  • In Drowtales, Kharla'ggen of the V'loz'ress clan has a creepy hobby when it comes to dealing with those who catch her fancy or resist. She uses her vast demonic powers to twist and turn their flesh, changing them into living breathing dolls and proceeds to use them to play dress up and snuggle.
  • In the completed sprite comic In Wily's Defense, Dr. Gabriel Knight was killed in a lab accident, but his soul survived in one of his incomplete robots through some divine intervention. The robot was kept frozen in stasis, unable to move or speak, but Gabriel could still see and hear everything happening in front of him. His wife, also a scientist specializing in robotics, disappeared for a year to mourn. Needless to say, Gabriel had completely lost his marbles by the time the robot was finished.
  • Florence in Freefall has had (mercifully brief) periods like this, thanks to her programming. In one instance, she's ordered to be happy; she complies outwardly but confesses to screaming on the inside. In a clearer instance, she has her voluntary movement suspended for an upgrade without warning; as soon as she gets it back, she shrieks belatedly.
  • In Girl Genius, there is a plant that gives off a pheromone (or something) that induces feelings of extreme happiness, and then eats the prey (similar to a Venus Flytrap). Apparently, this plant takes over a year to fully absorb large (read: human-sized) prey. So far, Tarvek and Zola have neglected to mention exactly how quickly death comes for a victim.
  • This almost happened in The Gods of Arr-Kelaan, but the goddess of death personally intervened.
  • A manga link. It's from the artist who did the Idle Minds.
    • Not quite over, for those of you who thought you'd escape sane. (The pictures to go with the first strip's ending narration.)
    • Ian Samson is a big fan of illustrating "turned into an object" comics. He's done things like having the super-heroine Synthia Stretch trapped forever as a bouncy ball toy. A girl with clay-based shapeshifting powers losing her ability to control her form and being turned permanently into a clay urn. And possibly most disturbing, a girl who's witch sister has ruined her life by constantly turning her into various articles of clothing. The witch eventually assumes that because she has no friends and no social life, she must prefer being an object, and decides to stop turning her back into a human. Unable to complain, seeing as how clothes don't have vocal cords, her sister spends the rest of her life trapped as one article of clothing after another.
    • Being one of his works, City of Reality deals with a lot of this. Magic World is full of people who, thanks to Hinto Ama, have been transformed into all manner of things, from turtles to clothing to water. At least there's the Manumitor, who goes around saving as many of these victims as he can.
      • In fact, in this work, the trope seems slightly subverted as usually the author's works seem to heavily imply that a person will be stuck forever. In City of Reality, it is mostly heavily implied everything will be okay eventually.
  • Jack by David Hopkins has a short story about a guy who gets offered a very nice apartment for free, ostensibly so he can convince other prospective buyers. The apartment at first seems to be everything promised, but strange things start to happen. He hears strange moaning sounds in the neighboring apartment, and his girlfriend tells him that he can't leave. After inadvertently killing her, a duplicate shows up and tells him nothing in the apartment is real, and that his girlfriend has long since forgotten him and moved to other guys. He takes a sledgehammer and breaks down the wall to find the strange moaning, and finds some sort of strange muck monster that limply chases after him, and he barely escapes through the hole in the wall, which closes itself. The person who sold him the apartment shows up and demands to know what's going. He is told that the truth is just out the front door, but he won't like it, and there is no going back to the nice apartment he once had. He ignores this and opens the door anyway. He is instantly reduced to a pathetic thing that he saw in the other apartment, too weak to even stand up. The apartment interior turns into plain wood similar to a shack, with nothing but a chair for him to sit on, and the only sound he can make is the moaning he heard earlier. It turns out he's in a particularly unpleasant part of Hell. And he stays there.
  • In Namesake, Selva, the Wicked Witch of the East, turned the Munchkin King into a hat box and Selva herself is turned into a purse
  • The NSFW webcomic Oglaf couples this trope with Fridge Horror in this strip.
  • In Sluggy Freelance Jane, who's got the "you can live forever, but your body can still decay" kind of immortality. She eventually becomes simply Zombie-Head-On-A-Stick, a barely articulate head-without-a-body, filled with an all-consuming hunger she can never satisfy, and doomed to be the plaything of bored idiots. However, at least she's eventually decay away completely if she doesn't satisfy her hunger for brains... it'll just take a very long time.
    • While Jane's fate is played for laughs and she might not even mind her new existence so much in the end (it's not really evident), a version happens to another much more sympathetic character without any especially magical or scifistic means: Kept alive indefinitely by advanced medical technology but too hurt to be healed or for the pain to even stop, suffering from the same extreme agony permanently whenever conscious. It makes the "must scream" part literal.
  • This sort of thing happens way too much in The Wotch. Scott has been transformed into an immobile, conscious statue three times so far, though it didn't last very long. Rosetta wasn't so lucky, as she got turned into a statue by a crazy wizard, kept that way for some time, then released after said wizard's Heel–Face Turn—but then she was turned back into a statue by a basilisk without anyone knowing what happened to her. It's been mentioned that some statues in museums and mannequins in department stores are transformed people. And some people consider this a humorous comic.
    • This also almost happened to a demon early in the comic's run...before the Big Bad and The Dragon rescued him.
  • In The Zombie Hunters, the Basilisk zombie possesses an automatically paralysing bioluminescent gaze. Any human that locks eyes with a Basilisk will suffer a painful seizure and become immobilized. The victim then has no choice but to lie there helplessly as the zombie closes the distance to feed. Slowly. Starting with the face.
  • Start of Darkness, one of the prequels to The Order of the Stick, initially plays this straight, when Xykon traps the soul of Lirian the druid in a magic gem, raises her corpse as a zombie, and threatens to feed the zombie to an ogre, thinking that it will drive her insane. Later subverted when he traps the soul of her lover Dorukan in the same gem. Because Evil Cannot Comprehend Good, he accidently creates a You Are Worth Hell situation instead.
    • Later, in the main comic, Crystal. After Haley kills her, Bozzok turns her into a flesh golem, spending extra money to make her self-aware and retain her memories and skills, but not her lack of focus. The new Crystal exists in constant pain, and is entirely focused on killing Haley, whose fault she thinks her state was. When Haley points out that it was really Bozzok's fault, Crystal turns against him and kills him.
  • Sarda from 8-Bit Theater went back to the beginning of the universe, and is forced to live through every major event in the universe over a period of billions... no, TRILLIONS of years. He admitted that the only thing keeping him alive at that point was pure, unadulterated hatred of the Light Warriors.
    • Chaos' plan was to put everyone into this type of state.
      • "I'll use my supergod powers to lock the souls of all livings things on this plane in the eternal torment of the darkness between worlds."
  • The Helmsman from Homestuck. Formerly the Ψiioniic, ancestor of Sollux and follower of The Signless, he was captured by Her Imperial Condescension when the Signless' rebellion failed. She extended his lifespan indefinitely with her magic, lashed him to her spaceship, and used him as a living battery to massively overclock her ships power. He exists in a state of undying, perpetual agony for thousands of years before he is killed by The Vast Glub.
    • An alternate Calliope suffers this fate after she kills her brother until she makes a deal with Echidna to end her life. Even after that, she has to wait in the Furthest Ring for Hussie knows how long, before Alpha Calliope and Jade find her, signalling that it was finally time for her Heroic Sacrifice to destroy the Green Sun and deprive Lord English of his powers. Given how she reacts to the whole event, it's implied that she's become a Death Seeker who views her end as a blessing.
    • It also happens to Caliborn, half of Gamzee, and Arquiussprite, at least for a while. In an alternate timeline,all eight children have a grand final showdown with Caliborn, which ultimately ends with Jake using his powers as Prince of Hope to tear Caliborn's soul out of his body. Unable to permanently kill him, Jake seals his body inside Lil Cal, but Arquiussprite and half of Gamzee's corpse are caught in the crossfire and accidentally trapped as well. Roxy then banished Lil Cal into the void, causing it to be found by Dave's Bro over a decade before the comic begins. They eventually escape, fused together as Lord English.
    • It's implied that this is also the fate of Lord English himself. At this point, Caliborn has already destroyed the grandfather clock that would decide if his death is heroic or just. Given that God Tiers like him are invincible unless their death is either heroic or just, this basically gives him unconditional immortality and makes him invincible. The last we see of him, he's being thrown into a black hole, completely deprived of his First Guardian powers because of the destruction of the Green Sun, his loyal minions dead, and with no way to escape..
  • In Verlore Geleentheid, Jane Onoda was in cryogenic stasis for 10,000 years but, due to a computer glitch, she and the others on her ship were conscious the whole time. The only reason she stayed (somewhat) sane is that the ship's computer kept her occupied with battle scenarios against the species that nuked her homeworld.
  • Nedroid: Described in the Alt Text of this comic:
    "It grows from here. Reginald begins reducing more and more actions to simple lines of dialogue: "nod", "dance", "laugh", "love". Eventually his muscles atrophy; his body wastes away. Only the left hemisphere of his brain remains alive, the spoken word itself reduced to mere thought. And once Beartato earns his master's degree and invents a brain-to-speech synthesizer, that final thought is at last heard: "Weep a single tear for the life I have wasted."
  • Schlock Mercenary had an AI disconnected from the mainframe, but still left running, with no sensor input and no way to control anything or alert anybody to her predicament. AIs in that universe operate so fast that they don't experience time the same way as humans do; a few seconds of real time is like millennia for them. This AI is left in this state for several hours, which seem like endless eons to her, while everyone else is unaware of her situation. By the time she is finally reconnected, she has gone murderously insane.
    Tagii: Sartre said "Hell is other people". Lucky human. He was never alone.
  • In Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger when neural templating was first developed the researchers were thrilled to discover that the "snapshot" they'd taken was conscious so they eventually hooked up inputs and outputs to it in order to communicate. Then they heard the screams
  • Played for laughs in Commander Kitty when a MOUSE unit is accidently beamed into space and left there to plot revenge. It winds up back on board through a freak accident.
  • MS Paint Masterpieces: Played for laughs for a few strips in the second game adaption when Reset Man's AI is placed in a storage device.
  • The backstory to at least one character in morphE. Between days there are dream sequences that reveal piece-by-piece how the seedlings came to be inside crates. One character in the second sequence was depicted as hanging by their wrists against a wall, too weak to do much more than kick off the wall and hit their back on the rocks behind. Their narration explained that their stomach was all but eating itself from hunger and their throat was too dry for them to speak beyond a husky whisper. The only candidates for this trauma both spent over 4 months between their kidnapping and escape. Hanging. Alone. Unable to die.
  • Done in this strip from Channel Ate.
  • The Adventures of Sue and Kathryn! gives us the Haunted Tree, which keeps telling Kathryn (to her frustration, as she's asking the tree for its opinion on other matters) to "release me from this existence".
  • Slightly Damned has Hell, a place of eternal personalized torment. It isn't that bad when you consider you could also end up in the Ring of the Slightly Damned, an almost entirely empty wasteland of nothing but rocks and mountains. And the only three known occupants have left the Ring, one dead and the other two in the world of the living.
  • Deep Rise has Servitors, macrofauna of the surface, captured, vivisected and rebuilt. much of what we humans would use mechanical devices and computers for, the Nobles prefer an organic solution. Some of them retain a bit of their former minds.
  • In the Nuzlocke comic Goddamn Critical Hits, this is what being a Cascoon is like. You can't move, speak, eat, or do anything until you evolve. Dusty the Dustox was one, and it's the primary reason for his loathing of Poké Balls ("I have spent half of my life in a dark, cramped jail, and I do not intend to inflict that on myself ever again!").
  • Spacetrawler: How the Spacetrawlers are made.

     Real Life 
Warning: This page contains Nightmare Fuel. Preparation of Brain Bleach is recommended.

  • One of the most common forms of this is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Motor Neurone Disease or Lou Gehrig's Disease. If you have Lou Gehrig's Disease, your motor neurons, which are responsible for triggering actions, gradually decay away while the rest of your nervous system (including your brain) remains perfectly intact. You can still feel pain and boredom but cannot move to avoid it. Clumsiness is one of the first symptoms. Poor Stephen Hawking gets more of a taste of this than anyone ever wants, living like this for years, though he at least gets sight, hearing and enough eye movement to control his computer (which does the communicating for him), along with retaining his incredible mind. The fact that Hawking is not only able to maintain a positive attitude, but still focus his brilliant mind, is testament to his sheer willpower.
    Hello. I am Stephen Hawking. Physicist, cosmologist, and something of a dreamer. Although I cannot move and I have to speak through a computer, in my mind I am free.
    • Most sufferers of this condition die after a year or two. Only 4% last for 10 years or more. Hawking has lived with the disease for half a century.
      • This fact has led to question whether it's actually ALS or not, and stymied a definitive diagnosis. Science is unlikely to identify the exact disease without an autopsy, which, for obvious reasons, won't happen as long as Hawking is alive. He doesn't seem to plan on dying anytime soon, however. He actually had to retire from his post as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics (the same title once held by Sir Isaac H. Newton) because nobody is allowed to hold that job-title after the year of their 67th birthday.
  • Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP). A horrible, horrible genetic disease where, if your muscles are damaged in any way at all, your body decides to replace the damaged muscle- not with more muscle, but with bone. By the time you're thirty, most, if not all of your joints have been locked into place by newly-grown bones and you die of starvation/suffocation because you can't move your jaw or ribs. And trying to remove the bone growths with surgery only results in the body "healing" the surgical cuts with even more bone.
  • The Tokaimura Nuclear Incident of 1999. Three technicians improperly feeding a uranium compound into a feeder reactor saw what may have been the most beautiful thing they ever saw, (Cherenkov Radiation, a beautiful blue glow which is also a surefire sign that the nuclear fuel has reached criticality) but in doing so, two of the three technicians, Hisashi Ouchi and Masato Shinohara, died painful deaths. While Shinohara died relatively quickly, Ouchi was kept alive for almost three months while doctors tried to do everything to save him, but even so, they also kept him alive to study the effects of radiation on the human body. His skin and eyes boiled away, his chromosomes couldn't be arranged into any order, for they were fragmented and destroyed. His organs failed and melted into goo. Not even transplanted bone marrow could survive in his body before it was destroyed by the radiation. Eventually, his bones turned black, and his muscles fell away. He begged the doctors to end his life, but they refused, thinking that there was a chance that he could be saved. To make matters worse, the doctors began carrying out experiments on his dying body, while he was still alive. When his intestines failed, an endoscope was inserted to look into the cavity that was left behind, and on the 50th day, his heart stopped several times, but doctors revived him each and every time. To quote the Coroner:
    At first glance, Ouchi’s body was bright red, as if he had been scalded. But it differed from burnt corpses whose entire bodies were pitch black. The front side of his body, where he had apparently been irradiated, looked severely burnt. No skin remained on this side and it was smeared in blood. The back side was entirely uncolored and the skin appeared normal. There was a distinct border between the irradiated and untouched areas.
    The intestines were swollen and looked like a writhing serpent. There was 2,040 g of blood in his stomach and 2,680 g in his intestines. It was obvious that the gastrointestines had not been functioning.
    Every mucus membrane in his body had disappeared. In addition to the mucus membranes in the intestines and other parts of the gastrointestinal tract, mucus membranes in the trachea had also disappeared.
    What most astonished Misawa was the muscle cells, normally thought to be the least susceptible to radiation damage. Ouchi’s muscle cells had lost most of their fiber and only the cell membrane remained.
    There was only one organ with vivid red muscle cells which had remained intact. It was the heart. Only the muscle cells of the heart had not been destroyed.
  • The case of Martin Pistorius. After contracting a brain infection at the age of twelve, Pistorius lost his ability to control his movements and speak but had full mental awareness for most of the 12 years he was trapped in his own body. An aromatherapist noticed his attempts to communicate through slight movements and he was eventually able to obtain a computer that gave him a voice, a job and a wife.
  • A bad experience with dissociative drugs such as the psychoactive herb salvia divinorum can cause horrifying sensations of being trapped in an eternal loop or transformed into an inanimate object. Time dilation plus ego death equals this trope becoming very, very real.
    • This can also happen with certain hallucinogens like K-2 which also slow time perception. It is not fun.
  • During surgerynote , patients are supposed to receive a general anesthetic cocktail that includes neuromuscular blocking agents (which keep them paralyzed so they don't twitch and mess up the surgery), sedatives (to knock them out and give them amnesia), and an analgesic (to numb them so they don't feel anything). There are numerous reports of patients who have had the sedatives and analgesics wear off during/after surgery but KEPT ON the neuromuscular blocking agent. So essentially they are wide awake — but completely paralyzed — with no possible way to give the doctors a sign that they are in excruciating pain. Luckily, the autonomous systems keep functioning and react to the pain as normal (quickened breathing and pace, heightened blood pressure, sweat), so a good doctor would probably be able to tell and readminister the anesthetic. Hopefully.
    • Anesthesia awareness, as it is called, happens in about 1 in 500 operations.
    • Modern anesthesia machines include an "entropy sensor", essentially an EEG, to make sure the patient is unconscious. The problem is that quite often it gets removed for being in the way.
  • Polio often caused paralysis. Sometimes of limbs. Sometimes of the various breathing mechanisms. Iron lungs, for a very long time, meant lying down in a sort of cylinder, with only the head outside. That's a nonintrusive way to keep someone breathing, and it's fine and dandy as a temporary thing. Most people who needed them only needed them for a week or two. But some polio patients were never able to breathe on their own again, and it was years before smaller long-term breathing machines were invented. Why We Immunize has a good article on that.
    • There's Elizabeth Moon's essay on polio. Put your chin on your chest.
      I did some volunteer work in a children's hospital. There was only one polio patient: one of the last cases, then a teenager, in an iron lung. By then there were no more specialty polio centers, no more polio wards, in which at least the inhabitants could talk to someone who understood. In a ward for children, where the other patients were kids who'd had some other treatable illness or injuries, there was his iron lung. He wanted no part of the cheerfulness we tried to bring to the ward.
      And no wonder. Unless he could adapt to one of the smaller respiratory assists that came later, he was stuck for life in a huge, unwieldy, scary case... immobile, having to be tended by people who reached in through portholes on the side to clean him up, change his diaper... and who, increasingly, would not have a clue what his life was like because people like him were so few now. He could not see his body, engulfed in the machine that kept him alive. He could see only what was directly above him or reflected in the mirror over his head. None of the electronic aids for the disabled existed then... or for another decade or two.
      There were, and are, more lethal diseases than polio: those with a higher mortality, and greater infectivity as well. But polio had a special horror to it.
  • This is the gist of Locked in syndrome, wherein you appear comatose, but are actually 100% aware of everything going on. This can go undiagnosed, everyone thinking they're just plain comatose. Like Kate Allat, now a patient advocate.
    • When former editor of Elle magazine Jean-Dominique Bauby was struck by locked-in syndrome after a stroke, he managed to communicate through a system of eyeblinks, and wrote a book about his experiences called The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, later made into a film.
  • Some people have severe enough cerebral palsy or other brain injury that they have almost no ability to walk, speak, or control their muscles, but still have a normal I.Q. Thankfully, modern communication methods mean people can communicate in ways such as using a letterboard. (This is how Eva Sweeney communicates. She is a massive, massive subversion of this trope!) However, consider all the people in third world countries, or who lived in previous centuries.
    • Christopher Nolan (not that one, the Irish author) could only communicate by typing with a "unicorn stick" after taking anti-spasmodics so that he could have some voluntary control of his muscles.
    • Neil Young's son Ben has this. He is completely spastic, quadriplegic and non-oral. He uses a device similar to Stephen Hawking's and now runs a chicken farm (something Neil himself had considered doing as a child).
  • See the references to Johnny Got His Gun in Film and Literature? One unfortunate Gulf War II veteran is living the nightmare.
  • Empress Dowager Lüi of the Han Dynasty, after having the young prince Ruyi murdered as a perceived threat to her son Hui's throne, tortured his mother, Consort Qi, by hacking off her hands and feet, putting out her eyes, deafening her, and tossing her in a pig pen to live out the rest of her life. Emperor Hui was so traumatized by his mother's unspeakable and pointless cruelty that he took to drink and died.
  • Carlos II of Spain.
  • In the book "Musicophilia", Oliver Sacks describes the sad case of conductor Clive Wearing, who suffers from an acute case of both retrograde and anterograde amnesia (i.e. he has lost almost all memories of his past, and is also unable to form new long-term memories, like the protagonist in the film Memento). Wearing is aware that something is terribly wrong with him, but he has no way to learn what has happened or come to terms with it, and is left only with a constantly recurring realization of having been robbed of all past experience. At one point, Wearing's therapist suggested that he might try keeping a diary...
    But his journal entries consisted, essentially, of the statements "I am awake" or "I am conscious," entered again and again every few minutes. He would write, "2.10 pm: this time properly awake... 2.14 pm: this time finally awake... 2.35 pm: this time completely awake," along with negations of these statements: "At 9.40 pm I awoke for the first time, despite my previous claims." This in turn was crossed out, followed by "I was fully conscious at 10.35 pm, and awake for the first time in many, many weeks." This in turn was canceled out by the next entry. This dreadful journal, almost void of any other content but these passionate assertions and denials, intending to affirm existence and continuity but forever contradicting them, was filled anew each day, and soon mounted to hundreds of almost identical pages." (pp. 203-204)
    Wearing has been keeping this diary for more than twenty years.
    • Heartwarmingly, one of the few things Wearing can always recognize and remember is his wife.
  • This experiment involving MRIs implies that people in persisted vegetative states may be completely aware of their surroundings, even going so far as to answer complicated questions. What's worse, the BBC broadcast talking about this implied the moral and legal obligations of such a claim, that someone stuck in this state and capable of asking for it would not be legally allowed assisted suicide.
    • However, several other methods of determining if someone in this state is aware are prone to problems. To wit, facilitated communication (where allegedly the comatose is able to communicate through another person "guiding" his hand to a keyboard) does not work (tests where different facilitators are used and where a test object is hidden from the facilitator, but not the PVS). The most prominent case of this is Rom Houben, a man who was thought to be completely aware for his 23 years in a coma, but was determined to still be out when the facilitated communication used to stake the claim failed.
  • Sleep paralysis is a condition in which the normal REM atonia that normally prevents the body from moving during REM sleep persists after one regains consciousness. Though generally this is experienced for only a few minutes at a time, the body is generally unable to accurately perceive the passage of time, and it can feel like hours. If it's not bad enough you're in a state of panic because you can't move, the subject can also experience terrifying hallucinations.
    • Thankfully, it's possible to learn to recognize what's going on and teach oneself ways to stay calm. Some sufferers are also able to break out of it faster by wiggling their toes, gradually regaining the ability to move at a somewhat quicker rate than if one stayed perfectly still. For some people, sleep paralysis can be triggered by various environmental factors (some are more likely to experience it if they sleep in a hot room, for example), so figuring out and avoiding these factors may reduce the chances of it happening.
      • Annoyingly and/or terrifyingly, one can often suffer from the belief that they are moving. A person could be trying to move their leg and feel it move without actually having moved. This combined with hallucinations can cause someone to have the sensation that they got up and walked away from their bed only to reappear a moment later in their bed having never actually moved at all. For some suffers, even long-term ones, "fighting it" seems like the only reasonable option because they too tired to rationalize it.
    • Sleep paralysis can occur before one goes to sleep. For some people, the inability to move even when tired is too terrifying to handle. This creates a catch 22 situation where someone is tired enough to go to sleep, but too terrified to attempt it.
    • Some people experience sleep paralysis mostly as a result of sleep deprivation. That means that whenever you try to go to sleep, you get paralyzed, and once you escape, you're exhausted and have to try to go asleep again, which leads to more sleep paralysis... The saddest part about this phenomenon is that it is not uncommon. It is where the word for nightmare originated from.
  • The leukodystrophies, a family of disorders in which the fatty sheath covering the nerves slowly dissolves, oftentimes lead to the sufferer becoming paralyzed, blind and deaf.
  • Although, it is extremely rare (and almost impossible today), there have been instances in which people have been thought to be dead and buried alive in a coffin.
  • The WNYC program Radiolab reported the story of Emilie Gossiaux, who suffered a traumatic brain injury that left her unable to communicate with the outside world. Or was she? It was unusually hard to tell, since Emilie was deaf, and the accident robbed her of her sight. You can listen to it here; it's absolutely riveting.
  • Tetrodotoxin, a potent neurotoxin found in newts and puffer fish, can induce muscular paralysis and a comatose stupor that lasts for several days—while leaving you fully conscious. It's believed by some to be the active ingredient in real-life zombie powder.
  • When you try to kill a bug, but it barely survives and you don't notice. That poor fly is lying on the pavement, unable to fly or do anything other than wiggle its legs, until either someone kills it properly or it dies on its own of starvation. Luckily for bugs, they have very simple nervous systems and don't feel pain the way humans do — but try telling that to your imagination.
    • Which arguably makes it even worse. Humans, at least, have the cognitive capacity to understand what happened if they find themselves unable to move. A fly, for instance, wouldn't. All it would know is that it hit something hard and now it can't move no matter how hard it tries, and it won't ever be able to understand why.
      • On the other hand, insect nervous systems are so non-centralized that the fly's brain understands very little of what its body does, typically. Ever had stomach cramps or indigestion or something, and had no idea why? That's a bit like how a fly feels about its entire body most of the time.
  • Curare, a toxin that causes full-body paralysis without affecting the mind or the feeling of pain, was used as an "anesthetic" for surgeries in the 1940's. On patients which included babies.
    • And before its medical uses were discovered, its traditional use was Poisoned Weapons. Specifically hunting, as most native preparations classified as curare could be safely ingested.
  • Some types of wine involve pickling a live viper in a bottle for months. Usually the snakes die but sometimes, they survive. There are even instances of snakes coming back to life and biting people who try to open the bottle.
    • Because of reptiles' slow metabolisms, decapitation can take hours or days to kill them, though they feel every bit of it the whole time.
    • Speaking of reptiles, if their prey is sufficently large (say, bigger than a duck), dying at the hands of a reptile becomes a slow and painful experience. A video online exists of an Alligator snapping turtle having caught a Mallard by the leg. As the bird tries to get away, the turtle just tightens its grip on the leg, slowly snapping the bird's leg bones one by one. Hours pass, and the turtle refuses to drown the bird. As the duck slowly lapses into exhaustion, it presumably has to endure being eaten alive.
  • There are a number of parasites that take control of insects or small animals and then force them, sometimes against their will, to allow themselves to be eaten by predators. For example, the Dicrocoelium infects an ant and then forces the ant to crawl to the tip of a blade of grass where it can easily be eaten by a bird, thus allowing the parasite to continue its cycle inside a bird. Even worse, the Spinochordodes larvae enter grasshoppers that drink the water they reside in and then after growing inside the grasshopper, they take control and force the grasshopper to jump into a body of water and drown itself. Imagine being unable to stop your body from drowning itself.
  • Encephalitis lethargica. A disease that reached epidemic levels in the 1920s, it started as a simple headache, fever, and sore throat. If it killed you, you were lucky, as many people in the late stages of the disease were left totally unable to move or speak, despite possibly still being conscious, as explored in the movie Awakenings.
  • Some strokes can cause enough damage that they can leave you in such a state. An example is John Paul Getty III, grandson of oil baron J. Paul Getty. In 1981, years after his infamous kidnapping by Italian gangsters, Getty tried a cocktail of various drugs. He suffered a stroke and came out of it quadriplegic and blind. Up until his death in 2011, all Getty could do to communicate was scream.
  • Contrary to stereotypes that some would try to have you believe, autistic people, including the supposedly most "low-functioning" autistics, do have thoughts and do try to communicate. The problem is, their default ways of communicating are either misinterpreted or outright ignored by most neurotypical people, especially those in the clinical professions, and instead (mis)categorized as "temper-tantrums", "rebellious defiance", "aggression", and a perennial favorite phrase, "socially inappropriate behavior".
    • This leads to an even more Nightmare Fuel rich situation: attempting to "cure" a patient's autism by either drugging them until they can't object to their (mis)treatment, or worse, "aversive" therapy of the exact sort that was once touted as a cure for homosexuality but which has now been banned in many places and ruled to be a form of torture.
  • Did you know that if you're decapitated, your brain doesn't die immediately? There are several documented cases of people being decapitated and being fully aware for up to two minutes afterward.
  • There are several species of wasp that target a specific animal, paralyze it with a sting, then lay an egg or eggs on it. When the eggs hatch, the larvae devour the creature alive, eating the meat first and the organs second to keep it alive and fresh for as long as possible. Of special note are tarantula hawk wasps. Their larvae take about a month to finish eating a tarantula, and the spider stays alive and unable to move for that amount of time, only dying when the larva starts eating its organs.
  • The Boltzmann brain, an hypothetical self-aware entity that would appear because of quantum fluctuations out of nothingnessnote . On its basic formulation, the thing(s) would appear with false memories of it/them living a life as ours instead of the truth (alone and in the middle of the most absolute nowhere). However, nothing impedes a brain would appear without those fake memories and discovered it's alone in the cold, absolute darkness, and of course totally unable to do something about it -including, of course, to be unable to kill itself-.
  • Aphasia is a series of conditions that can arise following injury to the areas of the brain that deal with language, most commonly after a stroke. The most severe of these is Global Aphasia, where a person loses the ability to say more than a few words, understand speech, write, and even read. The good news is, since this type of Aphasia is often seen immediately following a stroke, most patients will be able to recover. However, if the brain damage is severe enough, the resulting language disability may be permanent.
  • Apparently there exists an extremely rare skin disorder that, in short, makes Taken for Granite all too horrifyingly real. Your skin literally hardens into stone-like lesions, as this poor boy is learning all too well.
  • According to a thought experiment called Quantum suicide, it's impossible to die for every individual observer (for everyone else you would still be dead), no matter how small odds of survival are. If this were to be the case, then, depending on what counts as "survival", it could mean that either everyone in the Universe is destined to spend eternity in coma or this. note 
  • Working retail on a big shopping day, holidays, or during some special deal feels like this - Behold with shout outs to the Trope Namer.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AndImUSTSCream