Cessation of Existence

And that must end us, that must be our cure:
To be no more. Sad cure! For who would lose,
Though full of pain, this intellectual being,
Those thoughts that wander through eternity,
To perish, rather, swallowed up and lost
In the wide womb of uncreated night
Devoid of sense and motion?

This is when you die, and you cease to exist. No afterlife. No feeling, no thought, no perception, no existence. Your existence — everything you were — simply disappears like a popped soap bubble. The cessation of existence is not a lovely Fluffy Cloud Heaven or a boiling molten hell: you know nothing, you feel nothing, and you are nothing. If you cease to exist and are gone forever, you have no knowledge of anything, not even of your own death or the life you lived before. In other words, permanent and total unconsciousness. And even that is a woefully inadequate comparison, since even the unconscious can still dream. The term most often used to describe this state of affairs is either "nonexistence" or "oblivion".

This is fairly inconceivable to those who exist, as not-existing and existing are somewhat mutually exclusive. The idea here is that even after death you'll never know or realize you're dead and that there's no afterlife (even if you've believed in one), meaning the two examples above still don't quite give an accurate impression of what it would be like. Then again, it wouldn't be like anything. Perhaps a good way to think about it is like this: try and remember what it was like before you were born (belief in reincarnation notwithstanding).

Perhaps the greatest Primal Fear imaginable, and one that is arguably not unique to humans (although animals feel it on a much more instinctual level).

Not to be confused with The Nothing After Death, where you still exist, if only as a mere shade floating between nothing and nowhere.

Compare Ret Gone, which is when a character not only ceases to exist, but ceases to have ever existed. Also compare Apocalypse How: Class Z, which is where this becomes the fate of everything everywhere.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Death Note, Ryuk tells Light that since he's used the Death Note, he can go neither to heaven nor hell, but instead "Mu," or nothingness. At the end of the series, a flashback that shows the entirety of that scene occurs, where Light deduces (correctly) that that Cessation isn't exclusive to Death Note users; there's no afterlife for anyone. This is confirmed onscreen by Ryuk, as well as by the Rules of the Death Note shown between chapters, Word of God, and an Eye Catch in the anime.
  • In D.Gray-Man, it's stated that this is what's believed to happen to the soul of an akuma who is destroyed by any means other than through the use of Innocence.
  • Dragon Ball has an afterlife, but if someone who kept their corporeal form in "Other World" gets killed again, they are permanently erased from existence. Unknown if the same holds true for disembodied spirits in Hell.
  • In the Monster Rancher anime, becoming a Lost Disc and Monsters fusing together are portrayed as this.
  • In Shakugan no Shana, this is basically what happens whenever one's Power of Existence is lost (usually after being consumed by a Crimson Lord). If one's Power of Existence dwindles and fades away, they become increasingly lethargic and slow to react, while their presence starts to go by unnoticed by others. Eventually, they just vanish, and everything continues as though they never existed at all.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, this is what happens if someone who is already dead is somehow killed. In addition, certain creatures can eat a person's soul and cause them to cease to exist.
  • Bleach:
    • There is a wheel of reincarnation at work in this story. Souls born into the World of the Living die and pass into the Soul Society. They live there for a period of time, then die again and are finally reincarnated back into the World of the Living as a new lifeform. There are some souls born into Soul Society. When those souls die, they also move on through the reincarnation cycle. Even if a soul is interrupted in this cycle by becoming a hollow, the hollow can still be cleansed to return to the cycle and pass on to Soul Society peacefully. And then there are Quincies. Their power does not cleanse hollows. It destroys them. The soul is not only destroyed but will never return to the reincarnation and therefore vanishes for good. In other words, the Quincies don't just destroy the current life of the soul, they're destroying all the soul's future lives as well. The story has stated that Quincies are unique in being the only ones capable of destroying the soul. Their reason to do it is because the Hollows can destroy their souls by merely infecting them.
    • Left unclear in all of this is what happens to souls that are consumed by Hollows. When a Hollow consumes enough souls to evolve into a Menos, the souls will fight for dominance. But nothing has ever been said about what happens when one of them wins out. Are the rest still in there as distinct souls, or is their individuality completely wiped away forever? Since we've never seen a Hollow's soul(s) arriving in Soul Society after being purified, there's no way to know. This may be one of the many things that Bleach borrows from Japanese Mythology and folklore; for example, it was common in Shinto practices to believe that most "common" spirits or ghosts are absorbed into larger ones, such as unimportant ancestors or branch family members losing any individuality and becoming part of the family spirit as a whole.
  • In Fairy Tail, this is Mard Geer's plan to kill Zeref. Since he's essentially immortal and thus incapable of dying, the best way to deal with him is to remove the very concept of life and death entirely and erase him from the fabric of existence altogether. He even developed a technique specifically to do this.
  • In Durarara!!, this is what Izaya fears above all else. This is why he plans to initiate Ragnarok. His hope is to create a war only he can win, thus earning a place in Valhalla, but he'll take an eternity of torment in Hell so long as it means still existing.

    Comic Books 
  • This was the primary function of the Ultimate Annihilator, the weapon created by Robotnik Prime in the End Game arc of the Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog series. Robotnik planned to use it to not only defeat the Freedom Fighters, but wipe them and their home from existence. It worked so well, in fact, that when Snively sabotaged it and it annihilated Robotnik instead of Knothole the whole Universe was thrown into chaos when he was removed from it.
  • In Mike Carey's Lucifer, the title character makes his own cosmos with no afterlife. When he destroys the man he creates for disobeying his one command not to serve him, Lucifer says, "Did the ten thousand years before thy birth trouble thee? Well, no more will the ten thousand years after thy death."
  • In the Marvel Universe, this is the forte of the Cosmic Entity known as Oblivion. His sister Death claims anyone who actually dies. People claimed from him are subject to either this trope, Ret Gone, Deader Than Dead, or some other type of Fate Worse Than Death.
  • In The Sculptor, David is willing to give his life for his art. Along comes Death and shows him the void that awaits him after death, represented by two pages of blank white paper. David is freaked out by what he sees, since his mind could barely comprehend the absence itself, but he strikes a bargain with Death anyway.
  • During Day of Vengeance, Ragman tries to attack absorb Eclipso into his suit of rags, but her resistance creates a shockwave that ends up destroying hundreds of the evil souls already trapped there, causing them to simply cease to exist. This sends Ragman into a brief Heroic BSOD; as much as he despised all those souls trapped in his suit, he believed that they still deserved a chance to redeem themselves.
  • For things and beings that didn't make it before (thanks to the Multiversal collapse, courtesy of the Beyonders), during (thanks to simply being killed) and after (more importantly, this is the deciding one) the course of events of Marvel's Secret Wars (2015).
  • The fate of reality, courtesy of the Anti-Monitor, according to the Amazonian prophecy, in DC's Darkseid War.
  • If Ragman of the Shadowpact gets his cloak burned, the souls within will just stop existing and have no chance of eventually getting into Heaven.


  • Dogma.
    • This was the threat hanging over the heads of the protagonist. Azrael was so tortured by the absence of God and the self-imposed suffering of the damned in Hell that he would rather be wiped out of existence than suffer it any longer, consequences to the universe be damned.
    • It implied that this was also the fate of Bartleby and Loki: rather than going to heaven (since they were eternally and infallibly banished) or to hell (since they were forgiven), God allowed them both to simply cease to exist when they died.
  • In Dragonheart Dragon Sean Connery says that only certain dragons get to have an afterlife, branded by the stars. The others just... disappear when they die.
  • This is the effect of the God Killer in Drive Angry. Technically, though, those shot with it do exist in a very specific form... that being their gibbed remains painting everything close by from the explosive power of the gun. Metaphysically, it plays this trope straight.
  • This was the afterlife (or the lack thereof) depicted in The Invention of Lying before the main character invented religion to make people feel better.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it's implied this is what happens to Toons who have been killed using the dip, since the weasels who laugh themselves to death become angels, while the one who falls into the dip does not.
  • This is what one of the two main characters in The Bucket List initially believes. It's implied that he's changed his mind by the end of the film.
  • In Wrath of the Titans, this is what happens when a god dies.
  • Both the bad guys and the good guys(!) in R.I.P.D. use "soul-killing" bullets against their respective enemies. The two protagonists are also temporarily threatened with this after screwing up an assignment - perhaps the very ultimate in Disproportionate Retribution.
  • In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Spock makes it clear that something happened to him after he died, but it was something that only those with a "common frame of reference" could possibly discuss with each other. Both the wording and the implications make it unmistakable that they're not talking about Cessation of Existence. Then again, a fairly plausible case could be made that the "Spock" talking here was simply a part of him that, by virtue of already co-occupying McCoy's headspace at the time, never died in the first place.
  • The ultimate fate of old or unwanted memories and other elements of Riley's mindscape in Inside Out; after being consigned to the vast chasm between the Emotions' Headquarters and the rest of the mind, the memories fade, grow dim, and eventually dissolve away. Bing Bong the imaginary friend pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to allow Joy to escape the pit, symbolizing Riley's need to grow up and leave some of her more childish elements behind.
  • In the The 6th Day, religious extremists believe that clones don't have souls and therefore will simply cease to exist when they die. After being killed and cloned, one of Drucker's mooks notes that that he didn't experience any kind of afterlife in between. However, clones inherit the memories of the person they were cloned from, which are obviously stored in the brain; as those memories stop when the brain becomes inactive, it doesn't preclude the possibility of the previous clone existing in a non-corporeal form.
  • In Wes Craven's Chiller, a man (played by Michael Beck of Xanadu fame) is thawed out and revived when his cryonic containment unit fails. When a priest asks him what there is after death, he says, "Nothing. You die and there's just darkness." (It may or may not be true; Beck's character in the movie is an Unreliable Expositor since he Came Back Wrong.)

  • Robert Cormier's In The Middle of the Night, where the villain went Ax-Crazy after discovering this.
  • H.P. Lovecraft:
    • Ex Oblivione, where the protagonist discovered that oblivion was the natural state of things, and that 'existence', as it is known, is merely a brief nightmare...
    • In The Quest of Iranon the main character is told of such oblivion in terms of similar optimism by the people in one of the towns he visits. When Iranon himself dies at the end the issue of what becomes of him is not spoken of, and the variance and flexibility of Lovecraft's contradictory cosmology and mythos leaves the question open.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion, in which ghosts who are sundered from the gods drift blindly until they fade away completely. It's called the true death or the death of the soul. Most people go on to the afterlife, though.
  • In the Incarnations of Immortality series, in the fourth book it's stated that where souls go depends on what they believed and the Incarnations readers follow belong to the one theology. People generally go to an afterlife, but which afterlife depends to some extent on what they believe; one incidental character is a militant atheist who believes that Cessation of Existence is what happens to everybody when they die, and although he's wrong about the "everybody", it is indeed what happens to him. This actually makes for a very weird case, although being a book that didn't originally have a sequel planned sort of allows it. It's even outright stated that the War in that book only became War because he doesn't really believe in his own religion strongly, so he's mutable. But this also means that Death showing up for the soul at all was useless except for showing what happens to souls that don't believe in anything.
  • In the Night Watch books, the afterlife is only for Others; muggles just cease to exist. Since the afterlife is the dead existing as ghosts, unable to affect the real world, and always feeling that everything around them is not real, they actually wish for the cessation. Anton grants them this at the end of The Last Watch, but it doesn't stop new dead Others from suffering the same fate.
  • In the Deverry series, this is the ultimate punishment for the principal antagonist of the first four books. Everyone else gets to reincarnate.
  • In a story by Stanislaw Lem, a Ridiculously Human Robot called Automatthew ends up stranded on a Deserted Island, along with his artificial friend (called Alfred), a small, intelligent ball. After calculating that the odds of getting saved are next to nothing, Alfrd advises Automatthew to commit suicide to avoid an inevitable and much more painful death, and brings up several arguments for the case that Cessation of Existence is actually the greatest thing that could happen to a person.
    Picture if you will: no struggles, no anxieties or apprehensions, no suffering of the body or the soul, no unhappy accidents, and this on what a scale! Why, even if all the world's evil forces were to join and conspire against you, they would not reach you! Truly, nothing can compare with the sweet security of one who is no more!
  • In Poul Anderson's story "The Martyr", a race of advanced aliens has been systematically steering humans away from research into psychic phenomena to spare them from the knowledge that the aliens have an afterlife but humans don't.
  • His Dark Materials:
    • Iorek insists that there is no afterlife for his people ("We live and then we die and that is all,"), but it's not clear whether this is true or simply his society's belief.
    • Somewhere between this and Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence is what happens to the ghosts who leave the afterlife. Well, It Makes Sense in Context.
  • In Vonda N. McIntyre's The Exile Waiting a character learns that this is what happens after death, through being telepathically linked to someone at the time of their death.
  • The Ellimist, from Animorphs, describes the death of Rachel, as seen from his near-omniscient perspective, as "a small strand of space-time going dark and coiling into nothingness", implying this trope.
  • Guess what? This is what happens when you are kissed by a dementor in the Harry Potter series. And the Ministry actually used this as a form of punishment...
  • In the Warrior Cats series, the characters do have an afterlife - StarClan if they're good, the Dark Forest if they're bad. Either way, when the StarClan or Dark Forest cat is completely forgotten by living cats, they gradually fade away into nothing. However, if they receive an injury that in life would be fatal, they just disappear instantly.
  • In The Skinjacker Trilogy, cessation of existence normally does not occur - you're either living, in Everlost, or you've gone into the light - but a scar wraith can extinguish an Everlost soul by merely touching them. This is the fate of Squirrel in Everfound.
  • In Paradise Lost, the fallen angels discuss this as a possible punishment if they rebel against God again. Some feel this would be better than eternity in Hell, but Satan vetoes them.
  • In the Dreamblood Duology, this can happen to someone if a Hetawa priest drains them of all their dreamblood. The main character of the second book deliberately destroys someone's soul in the end, but this is portrayed as a good thing, as the soul was so damaged that it would never have found rest.
  • In the Magic: The Gathering novel Planeshift, the lich Lord Dralnu claims that this is what happened when he died. You never get to find out whether he spoke the truth, though.
  • In The Wheel of Time:
    • This is what Moridin wants, for himself and everyone else. At the end of the series, the world is saved and Moridin dies. Word of God is somewhat ambivalent over whether or not he actually got the oblivion he craved, though.
    • Wolves in the series have it worse off than humans. A wolf who dies then lives on in the World of Dreams (which only a few humans do). A wolf who dies in the World of Dreams is gone.
  • Achieving this becomes the main goal of prince Evnos from Darrell Schweitzer's The White Isle after his visit to the afterlife, where everyone is tortured forever regardless of their deeds in life. He succeeds.
  • Debated in John Varley's Steel Beach. Hildy says that people need to believe in an afterlife even when they know that it makes no sense.
  • Implied to be the case in The Night Land and Awake In The Night Land when people have their soul Destroyed, or maybe they are just prevented from reincarnating again.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Elsewhen has a man who crossed over from one universe to another, and predicts that every person, when they die, gets the afterlife they expect to get, because no person can believe in their own nonexistence.
  • The Kane Chronicles: Being based on Egyptian Mythology, good people go to Heaven and bad people get their souls eaten and stop existing. It's also specified that people who don't believe in an afterlife just stop existing when they die.
  • American Gods: Shadow asks for this when he's allowed to choose an afterlife after he dies. What he gets is a mindlessly happy Nothing After Death until he gets brought back to life.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, this doesn't appear to be the standard death experience (the only reliable witness of the afterlife died under very unusual circumstances).
    • Apparently this is may have what happened to Fred. When Illyria takes over her body, it completely devoured her soul, quite explicitly ruling out any possibility that Fred could come Back from the Dead. Considering that Fred was meant to return in Season Six by her and Illyria splitting in two (had the show not been cancelled), this may not have actually have been what happened, and the person who claimed this may be wrong. In the 'After the Fall' comics, it seemed as though Fred HAD returned, occasionally taking over the body inhabited by Illyria - however, it was later revealed that Illyria was faking it, as she apparently wanted Fred to be back.
      • In the Season Nine comics, Illyria sacrifices herself to restore magic to the world, and somehow this results in Fred being brought back to life in Season Ten. And even stranger, Illyria is still inside Fred, even though Fred's body is fully human.
    • In Buffy's case, she knew there was something beyond because there was "no pain, no fear, no doubt, until they pulled me out..." She is even trying to sketch what is was she saw during the beginning of "Once More With Feeling." However, just like Spock, she can't readily describe what she experienced in human terms and is sketching a white light in a field of black.
  • This, along with Ret Gone, is the fate of anyone who falls into a Time Crack in Doctor Who, during the Eleventh Doctor's first season.
  • Star Trek:
    • A later episode of Star Trek: Voyager had Neelix discover, much to his horror, that there was nothing after death. However, he was clinically dead but successfully resuscitated with medical intervention; the question is whether or not that counts as "dead enough" that he should have seen the afterlife.
    • When Q spent some (involuntary) time as a human in Star Trek: The Next Generation, he seemed particularly concerned about dying, convinced that he would simply wink out of existence. This and the above example suggest that either there is no afterlife in the Star Trek universe, or that the afterlife is so mysterious even the sufficiently advanced Q don't know about it.
    • It's implied (and sometimes even outright stated) in the Expanded Universe that there are beings far more powerful than the Q. If there is an afterlife in the Star Trek universe, then it can be assumed the Q in general fear that something may lurk there that is far more advanced than they are. Otherwise, they may simply just fear that, despite all their god-like powers, they too may face the same fate as any other being in the universe, death without anything beyond that.
    • There was also another thing in the Star Trek universe that seems to negate the afterlife. In the original Star Trek episode "Return to Tomorrow", Sargon says "Thalassa and I must now also depart into oblivion" before he dies. "Departing into oblivion" wouldn't necessarily mean "ceasing to be," though it could. It could just refer to leaving behind the known and entering the unknown.
    • This trope is actually subverted at several points throughout the series' of Star Trek, the most notable subversion is the Voyager episode "Barge of the Dead", where B'Elanna is nearly killed in a shuttle accident (similar to how Neelix temporarily dies) and in her near death experience, she learns that her mother is on the road to Klingon Hell, so she re-creates the conditions of the accident to go back to the "barge of the dead" and tries to get her mother into Klingon Heaven. She succeeds.
      • However, it's subverted at the end, when her mother reveals that she's not really dead, if her words that they'll meet when B'Ellana "returns home" can be taken at face value.
    • Voyager 3/15 episode "Coda", Janeway dies on a random planet and she is walking around the ship basically as a ghost. Her father comes to her and leads her to a tunnel of white light, however she realizes this is not her father but a non-corporeal alien who says that this is how his race feeds, they lead the dead into their matrix and feed on their psychic energy. Before she is revived the alien tells her it doesn't matter because she will die someday, and when she does they will then have her. When Janeway is revived she speculates that perhaps there is no after-life, just these aliens who feed on the psychic energy of the dead.
    • Discussed in the episode "Emanations", where it's revealed a species dead do not physically resurrect in the "next emanation" as they believe, but simply decay on asteroids they're transported to. Naturally, they're horrified to learn about this. Janeway posits their "neural energy" becomes part of the planet's atmosphere and they continue existing that way, but the episode ends without it being made clear either way.
  • Torchwood:
    • A subplot in the first series has the unwillingly-immortal Captain Jack Harkness questioning people temporarily revived from the dead if they experienced any kind of afterlife. So far, the answer has been "No." Moreover, they only learn they died from these temporary revivals, followed by the realization that they're seconds away from dying again. All this while Torchwood staff is asking them what or who killed them.
    • She's probably not the most reliable witness but, in "They Keep Killing Suzie", the eponymous character posits a different afterlife.
      Gwen: So when you die, it's just—
      Suzie: Darkness.
      Gwen: And you're all alone, there's no one else?
      Suzie: I didn't say that.
      Gwen: What d'you mean?
      Suzie: Why do you think I'm so desperate to come back? There's something out there... in the dark. And it's moving.
      • If the creature that came back with Owen is any indication, there's a reason to fear what's beyond.
    • Surprisingly, however, the episode "Random Shoes" has a (slightly) kinder take on this trope (or maybe not. It's the Whoniverse; just go with it.). After the main character for that episode completes his unfinished business, the audience is given the image of a incredibly fast zooming out from the Earth, with us suddenly having the main character's speech falter and we see nothing but silent nothingness.
      • He did swallow an alien artifact, so that may have something to do with it.
  • As of the conclusion of Season 6, it's strongly implied (though not spelled out in so many words) that this is the fate of angels and demons who die in Supernatural, unless God takes a personal interest and brings them Back from the Dead.
  • House is utterly convinced that there is nothing after death. At one point, he is told that there is no way he can know for sure that that's true. He then induces clinical death on himself and does not have a near-death experience. That's all the proof he needs that he was right all along. Well, maybe. Or maybe that's just House's hereafter.
  • Head Six claims that this is what happens to those who die on Kobol in Battlestar Galactica (2003).
  • In The Fallen mini-series, a mortally-wounded Fallen Angel reveals that if a fallen angel dies before being redeemed, he or she simply ceases to exist (prompting Aaron to redeem him). Given what they know about the afterlife, this fate is horrifying to them. Presumably, any of the Powers who are killed are simply returned to Heaven, although Archangel Michael implies that the Powers are also being punished by the Creator.

  • John Lennon - "Imagine":
    Imagine there's no Heaven
    It's easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    • Apparently, this image is supposed to be comforting: no judgment, no discrimination, no after-death torment. To someone who's been raised with a belief in Heaven, however, it's nothing less than horrific.
    • A particular cover, done by A Perfect Circle, makes this part sound slightly more ominous than Lennon probably intended.
  • According to songwriter David Byrne, this trope is what he intended "Road to Nowhere" to be about. "Well we know where we're goin' but we don't know where we've been...We're on a road to nowhere; come on inside. Takin' that ride to nowhere; we'll take that ride. Maybe you wonder where you are: I don't care! Here is where time is on our side...."
  • The Gothic Archies' song "The Dead Only Quickly" is about this trope.
  • The Bright Eyes song "At the Bottom of Everything" implies this, if briefly.
    And in the ear of every anarchist
    Who sleeps but doesn't dream,
    We must sing, we must sing,
    We must sing
    • Expanded in another song by them, "Down in a Rabbit Hole," which is explicitly about death.
    If your thoughts should turn to death
    better stomp them out
    like a cigarette
  • The whole point of the Elysian Fields album The Afterlife.
  • The song There Isn't Any God (aka Gospel) by Rusty Cage is about this trope, along with his belief that God doesn't exist.
  • The Monty Python song Always Look at the Bright Side of Life.

  • This is the paradigm of the scientific community today over the fate of living creatures (including humans) after their death.
  • The narrator of Brad Neely's book-on-tape edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (known as Wizard People, Dear Reader) celebrates this concept to comedic effect:
    Dumbledore starts in. 'Don't you want some cocoa or soup, Harry? Come away from the light of Heaven's easy life. We need such a valiant, beautiful warrior as yourself here to live and to hack the serpents of evil in two, hell, into twos, into threes and fours! Your life will be the very envy of Heaven and its slobbery inhabitants. No, Harry. You were meant to stride with us, the living! To course with us and our blood. You are meant to end when your share of that blood turns brown upon the rocks of glory! You and I shall drink to-night, Harry. We shall drink to life's confines, to life's pearly end, which is the nothingness of death, not the perpetual pansiness of Heaven!'
  • Mark Twain allegedly said, "I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it." Though other quotes from him and his relatives reveal an inconsistent opinion on the matter; his daughter Clara said: "Sometimes he believed death ended everything, but most of the time he felt sure of a life beyond."
  • To end this folder with a less depressing note, still remains the possibility of someone being born again in the future. From the perspective of someone that would appear to be instantaneous, and of course there's no way to know when and where that would happen and the previous self for all purposes would be Lost Forever. Both Greek and Chinese mythology postulate that the person would have no knowledge of ever existing previously, typically as a result of drinking some potion that erases memories.

  • Philip Larkin's poem "Aubade" is about the fear of ceasing to exist, and how there's really no relief from it.
    This is a special way of being afraid
    No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
    That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
    Created to pretend we never die,
    And specious stuff that says No rational being
    Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
    That this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,
    No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
    Nothing to love or link with,
    The anasthetic from which none come round.
  • Algernon Charles Swinburne's poem, "The Garden of Proserpine" describes it as a positive thing that finally brings peace.
    Then star nor sun shall waken,
    Nor any change of light:
    Nor sound of waters shaken,
    Nor any sound or sight:
    Nor wintry leaves nor vernal,
    Nor days nor things diurnal;
    Only the sleep eternal
    In an eternal night.

  • While the majority of Christians believe that you go to either Heaven or Hell (and occasionally Purgatory), a growing number of Christians believe in Conditional Immortality, also called Conditionalism or Annihilationism. Conditionalists hold that everlasting life is a gift from God, and therefore the final punishment of the unrighteous will be death. The Bible distinguishes between two states of death: Sheol or Hades, the common grave of mankind, and Gehenna, a "second death" from which there is no hope of coming back, though some translations conflate both concepts as "hell". The Bible repeatedly mentions how the consequences of sin is death (Romans 6:23), humans will naturally return to dust (Genesis 3:19), God can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna (Matthew 10:28), and everlasting life is God's gift to the righteous through his son Jesus (John 3:16). Conditionalists also tend to reference Genesis in how we were banned from everlasting life as a result of sin, but God offered it back (He never offered Fluffy Cloud Heaven) through Jesus, so, if we were immortal in the first place there would never be a necessity for such an elaborate scheme to reacquire everlasting life. The idea of conditional immortality is also helpful in Christian Apologetics, since so many are repulsed by the Disproportionate Retribution inherent in the Eternal Conscious Torment view of Hell.
    • Conditionalists include some evangelical Christians, as well as certain denominations (sometimes called sects or cults by other Christians) such as the Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. They reason from these and other scriptures that there is no Hell or afterlife. They believe that when you die, you cease to exist until you are resurrected. Those who died saved will be resurrected soon after the second coming, while those who were lost when they died come back to life in the Second Resurrection where they face probation for their sins; if they fail, they die again, but without hope of further resurrection. They argue that the idea of God imposing eternal torture without parole for a little doubt means that God Is Evil, and that the idea of the permanent and immortal soul is Platonic and influenced by Paganism, not Biblical, in origin.
    • For more information on the different views within and variations of Conditionalism, helpful sites would include Rethinking Hell and Hell Know.
  • The common Western misconception (not helped by mistranslations as the West began to make contact with the East) of Buddhist Nirvana is this - certainly not helped by Buddhism's teachings to be free of suffering, inherent in life. In reality, Nirvana is more of a "super-state" of sorts beyond all existence, impurity, and physicality, but it's more complicated than that.
  • In the Egyptian Mythology, the soul survives physical death, and for that the believers of this mythology didn't fear death per se that much. But the afterlife is very dangerous, and if a malevolent spirit manages to eat you in the way between the living world and the world of the dead, you cease to exist. Additionally, if luckily you had avoided these spirits, you were judged by a council of deities and if you lost your trial they threw you to Ammit, a soul-eating chimera ceasing the existence of the judged. Somewhat more mundanely, they also took mummification infinitely seriously because they believed that a botched preparation for embalming destroyed the soul of the person whose corpse they were preparing.
  • This is the viewpoint of the Classical Epicureans, who did not fear death, as they would not be around to experience their own, and knew that others would not suffer in an afterlife.
    • Same goes for the Stoics.
  • There was an influential Jewish sect around the time of Jesus, the Sadducees, who did not believe in an afterlife for mortals, and rejected the idea of a resurrection. The New Testament depicts several disputes between them and the growing Christian movement.
    • The Talmud does not handle the Sadducees exactly with silk gloves. The Pharisees and Sadducees were at each others' throats, and the Pharisees eventually won. The Talmud was written by the descendants of Pharisees. The Essenes also disagreed with the Sadducees on this point, and hated them more than the Pharisees did. John the Baptist even calls the Sadducees “a brood of vipers”...although the Gospels collectively imply that he liked the Pharisees even less.
  • This appears to be what happens to gods in Norse Mythology when they die. The exception is Balder, who is sent to Hel like humans are, but he only stays there because Hel herself won't allow him to leave, not because he is metaphysically confined there.
  • Naturalistic atheists and pantheists usually ascribe to this. Most don't have a problem with this either, especially if they left a religion that believed in some kind of Cosmic Horror Story-esque afterlife such as Hell.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • If you kill a demon or devil on its home plane in they're gone for good.(See Order of the Stick, below.)
    • As mentioned below, though, this depends on the version being played; 3.5 edition, for example, held that Outsiders (demons, devils, angels, etc.) and Elementals could only be restored to like using the True Resurrection spell. On the other hand, it's possible for mortal souls to be outright destroyed by gods or powerful outsiders, and at least one mortal spell (Necrotic Termination), if successful, creates an undead creature that kills the target and devours their soul, noting explictly that nothing can bring them back.
    • In the Planescape setting, there's a group called the Prolongers who believe this is true for everyone. As a result, they're terrified of death, and have used a Dangerous Forbidden Technique that has transformed them into abominations that can drain the life force of others to restore their own youth.
  • Ironically enough, this appears in the game Wraith: The Oblivion. As in most Role Playing Games, the threat of death is ever present, even though in Wraith, you're already dead when the game starts. The unstated goal of Wraith is to move on from the Shadowlands, and there are two ways to do this (well, two basic ways... anyhow, moving on). The first is the ultimate enlightenment, Transcendence. This is where the ghost accepts its death and moves on. To what, who knows? Transcended ghosts aren't around to tell. That's why it's called moving on. The second way to move on is the titular Oblivion. Ignoring for the moment the fact that Oblivion is also a force of nature and essentially the big bad of the whole metaplot, for the sake of this explanation it is a phenomenon: a very rare form of death after death. When the ghost is damaged enough it goes into a manic/psychotic episode called a Harrowing, and if this happens bad/often enough, the soul obliviates and ceases to exist. And the horror of it all? Transcendence and Oblivion look exactly the same to the onlooker.
  • This is the fate of anything that falls into the void of Oblivion that lies beneath the Underworld in Exalted. There are also certain powers that confine the victim (or, eventually and in exchange for great benefits, the user) to Oblivion. The Neverborn ultimately want to fall into Oblivion, because they regard it as preferable to their torturous and impotent unlives.
  • In the New World of Darkness, it's somewhat implied that this is what the true Afterlife is — there's no obvious difference between when a ghost "moves on" and when it's destroyed — but no-one's actually certain. The Underworld (where ghosts go if their anchors are destroyed but they still aren't ready to let go of existence) is somewhere between Hell and The Nothing After Death, instead. Directly destroying a ghost definitely causes this, though.
  • In both New World of Darkness and Old World of Darkness vampires can preform diablerie, which involves sucking out another vampire's soul. It is strongly implied victims of this simply cease to exist, as such diablerie is commonly considered a Moral Event Horizon by vampires.
  • The state of "True Death" for the Dustmen in the Planescape D&D setting.
  • In Mage: The Awakening, those who are deemed so dangerous that their very existence in any plane —alive or dead— could destroy the world are taken to the edge of the universe and thrown into the collective unconscious and become non-sentient universal energy. This is considered to be such a horrific thing to do that the mage who does so will step down from their seat on their council and cease practicing magic forever.
  • In Warhammer 40,000, during the Horus Heresy, this happens to two people in the span of about 30 seconds, specifically when the Emperor fought Horus in a one-on-one duel and sought to redeem the latter from the Chaos Gods. Horus, however, resisted and committed one last Kick the Dog act by making the Emperor's last bodyguard cease to existnote , which pushed him well beyond the moral horizon for the Emperornote . The Emperor then unleashed such a powerful psychic attack that Horus's very soul was destroyed (much like the bodyguard Horus just killed). It's later shown that this was both due to the Emperor's rage and out of practicality; Chaos Gods can resurrect champions so long as their soul still lives (as with the case of Lucius and Kharn, the champions of Slaanesh and Khorne respectively) but Horus's soul was utterly destroyed, meaning that he's even out of the Chaos Gods' grasp. What the Emperor did not count on was that Horus' first captain, Abaddon, was ruled "close enough" by the Chaos gods...

  • Frequently discussed in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, mostly by Guildenstern. He turns out to be right, as he and Rosencrantz seem to wink out of existence at the end of the play when they outlive their relevance. Or something.
    Rosencrantz: Do you think death could be a boat?
    Guildenstern: No. Death ... is not. You take my meaning? Death is the ultimate negative, a state of not-being. You can't not-be on a boat.

    Video Games 
  • In Assassin's Creed I, the Templar Sibrand believes that there is nothing waiting for him after death, and this fact terrifies him so deeply that when he learns that the Assassins are coming for him, he begins executing random priests out of sheer blind paranoia because they wear vaguely similar robes to those of the Assassins.
  • According to Ray in Ghost Trick, this is what happens to ghosts at sunrise. He's lying to make sure Sissel is properly motivated.
  • This is what happens to Magypsies in Mother 3 after the needle they exist to guard is pulled out of the ground. They seem to completely accept this fate.
  • In The World Ends with You, if you are "erased" (aka killed post death), your soul disappears. Players have to escape this fate for a week, and then MAY have the option of returning to life. If not, they play again, become a Reaper (who try to "erase" souls and keep themselves from being "erased"), and a few become angels. Basically, if you play the game you're probably going to cease to exist. However, the secret reports reveal that erasure doesn't actually destroy someone's soul entirely, but it reduces it to whatever souls are made of, which comes down to almost the same thing. One character is actually erased early in the game, but eventually comes back because the energy their soul became was reconstituted into its previous form.
  • Persona 2 had something similar to Shakugan no Shana, and did it first. Someone who loses their "Ideal Energy", the will and energy to pursue their dreams, becomes drained and lethargic, unwilling and unable to do anything, as Muggles forget about them and can no longer see or hear them. After a while, they simply cease to exist entirely.
  • In the Nasuverse there exist such things as "life after death," "the soul," "ghosts," "spirits," "higher planes that exist independent of time," and things like that. That means death is not the end and for some few characters, death may even be cheap. That is unless you are killed by the Eyes of Death Perception. When killed by these eyes, you simply cease to exist and the only way you can see the light of day again is to turn back the hands of time.
    • On the other hand, no character in the Nasuverse is truly immortal; that concept may not even exist, though there are many that pine after it. Those who have achieved something close to it are only hiding or not yet aware of their continued weakness. Wallachia only has to be restored to his original form. Those in the Throne of Souls cease to exist when the Earth dies prior to Angel Notes(only not really, because they exist outside of time. They just can't actually interact with the World anymore. At least not this one.), and they spent the rest of their existence trolled by the Counter Force and Grail Wars. For the otherwise almighty Aristoteles, there is Black Barrel and Slash Emperor. The lone exception to this rule seems to be the the fifth Dead Apostle Anscestor: Type-Mercury, official designation, the ORT. And that's not because its special, its just so far removed from anything the Earth has to offer that its very pretense there gradually rewrites reality. So it might not be immortal, it just lacks Gaia's concept of 'death' altogether. It might have its own - completely different - version.
      • This is because souls in the Nasuverse work in a particularly Buddhist way. While humans do have souls that return to Akasha (the Origin) upon death and are eventually recycled into life, their previous existences' identity is wiped clean, similar to the Theravada concept of anatman ("no soul" or "no self"). One character attempted immortality by permanently imprinting his own identity and memories on his soul, essentially creating reincarnation. On the other hand, since the Eyes of Death Perception don't destroy a thing's soul, just its existence...
      • Note that this might not always have been the case. During the Age of the Gods, genuine deities walked the Earth. Modern Magi have classified their very existence on the same level as the Five True Magic, which in order, allow their user to Create from Nothing, 'Operate' parallel universes, manipulate and materialize the soul(including making it last indefinitely, which is essentially immortality, unfortunately this magic has been lost for over a thousand years), a forth with an unknown effect, and the final one which allows its user to manipulate entropy, which can lead to time travel. The proper use of those magics could potentially stave off the Cessation of Existence indefinitely, and considering that many people believed in an Afterlife, and it was a Clap Your Hands If You Believe world... unfortunately, because of the actions of Gilgamesh, the gods are dead, magecraft is a pale, dying shadow of what it was and the World no longer operates under such laws. To be fair, the gods were definitely jerksasses.
  • Ending D of NieR is all about this. Having accepted to sacrifice himself to bring back Kaine from her Shade corruption, the price is for the main protagonist to be wiped from existence entirely, even from everyone's memory. As a final testament to the permanence of this fate, your entire save file is deleted.
  • Oracle of Tao: although it's temporary. The main character successfully convinces herself that she doesn't exist, and begins to fade away. At the last possible second though, the other heroes have a Clap Your Hands If You Believe moment, and cheer her on, convincing her to exist again. This is after she's stopped existing.
  • In Remember11, when either "Satoru" or Kokoro transfer into a time in which the other is dead, as soon as they realize that they should be dead, they simply cease to exist.
  • In Kingdom Hearts I this is a major focus. When the Heartless "eat" a person, they convert that person into a heartless themselves. Their Heart is eaten as food and the original person is usually lost forever. Sora escapes this at the end of KH 1.
    • This is also the entire concept of Nobodies. They are born when a person with a strong Heart is eaten by the Heartless. Their "Body" starts to walk around as a Nobody. The Nobody does not have a Heart so it cannot have emotions and when it dies it fragments into pieces. This is shown with the deaths of the Organization XIII. This is mentioned in a discussion between Axel and Roxas:
    Axel: Let's meet again, in the next life.
    Roxas: Yeah; I'll be waiting.
    Axel: Silly, just because you have a next life…
    • Both were Ret Conned later. Kingdom Hearts II reveals that killing a Heartless with a Keyblade actually releases the heart(s) that have been eaten and returns them to Kingdom Hearts. Meanwhile, when a Nobody dies, their Nobody identity is permanently lost but their original "somebody" reconstitutes itself once the Heart is freed by a Keyblade. In addition, the reconstituted "somebody" retains their memory from when they were a Nobody, becoming in essence a Composite Character of the two. Good news for the millions of innocent bystanders who now actually have a chance... and the not-so-innocent Xehanort.
  • In Super Paper Mario, The Void threatens this to all sentient beings. The Void appears simultaneously in all dimensions, and when it reaches maturity, will annihilate that dimension, leaving a blank nothing behind as if that dimension never existed. It turns out the afterlife exists in Mario and is a different dimension. Sure enough, the Void is present there too.
    • The one dimension shown to suffer this fate onscreen did however leave behind a small amount of debris, including the world's Pure Heart, and everyone who died as a result of its destruction was also revived once the dimension was restored.
  • Crysis 2 had Jack Hargreave say he found the prospect of "simple oblivion" to be preferable to an actual afterlife after spending fifty years as a Brain in a Jar.
  • Final Fantasy
    • Not the initial death of Doga and Unei in Final Fantasy III—after forcing the party to kill them in a boss fight, they offer the consolation that they'll remain in spirit. But when the Cloud of Darkness one-shots the kids at the end, Doga and Unei use up their souls to bring them back to life, sacrificing themselves to this fate.
    • In Final Fantasy VII, when anything dies (be it a person, a bird or a flower), its life energy is absorbed into the lifestream. The lifestream then recycles that energy to make new living things. But then there's the whole mess with Shinra sucking up that life energy and converting it into electricity, which means that this trope may have been the ultimate fate of millions of souls during the game's timeline.
    • Final Fantasy XIV follows a similar world structure to Final Fantasy VII where the lifestream full of aether flows within the planet and living beings that die have their souls returned to the lifestream where a new life can be made. The main problem that occurs within the story are primals, god-like beings that are summoned to help and protect the beast tribe that summoned them and consume aether to sustain their physical form. It is stated that a single primal alone could absorb all of the world's aether (thus fulfilling the trope) if left alone long enough, therefore the player character is tasked with slaying whatever primals that are summoned in order to keep the planet stable.
  • In Receiver, the player is a survivor of the Mindkill, which causes this.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, it's revealed that only a Gray Warden can properly kill an Archdemon, if anyone else does it the Archdemon will just possess the nearest darkspawn and come back to life, however, the Warden's soul and the Archdemon's will both be annihilated in the process.
  • This is what is said to happen to all of the Pokemon from the Bad Future when time is corrected in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers. The two times this is seen to occur, after the player and partner restore Temporal Tower, and in the Explorers of Sky episode where Celebi, Grovyle, and Dusknoir defeat Primal Dialga in their own time, it is not permanent. In the first example, the player character disappears completely, but is brought back by Dialga. In the case of the second, the trio is starting to disappear when it mysteriously stops (possibly due to Arceus' interference).
  • In Heroine's Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok, mess up during some of the end game sequences, and you'll be erased from existance for altering the past.
  • Undertale:
    • Taken a step further than usual with W.D. Gaster. Never heard of him? It's because when he ceased to exist, he ceased to exist from the game's narrative itself. It's only possible to find direct references to him by poking through the game's code or by capitalizing the "fun" value in the game's files and setting specific numbers to trigger random appearances. He's essentially a canon character who was Dummied Out In-Universe
    • The trope is downplayed and played straight for Flowey. After being reincarnated and lacking the ability to have empathy due to not having a soul, Flowey thought about ending his life and then stopped himself from doing it after realizing that without a soul, he cannot exist after death. The fear goes out the window once Flowey discovers he has the ability to SAVE and LOAD, effectively cheating death. His death defying abilities were removed when Frisk arrived in the underground since Frisk has the same abilities and theirs are stronger than Flowey's. In the end of the No Mercy path, Flowey is ecstatic that Frisk (who has become the Fallen Child thanks to the player's slaughter spree) shares the same "kill or be killed" mindset and notes that the two of them wouldn't hesitate to kill each other if they got in each other's way... Cue moment of dawning comprehension as Flowey realizes that his "best friend" can and will murder him and fully remembers what will happen to him if he dies without a soul.
  • In the Baldur's Gate series, the Player Character's soul has a different nature from other mortal beings. This is because he or she is a partial Soul Jar for their father Bhaal, the dead god of murder. Consequently, if he or she is killed, the essence of their being will merge back with the god, effectively becoming this trope. This also justifies why the Player Character's party can't simply resurrect them. You also have to inflict this fate upon at least five half-brothers and sisters, as well as upon Amelyssan, who welded her soul to Bhaal's power in an attempt to become a goddess herself.
  • Minecraft: Story Mode: It turns out this is what happened to the Ender Dragon, as the Order relied on the Command Block's power to delete it rather than actually killing it.

  • In 1/0, you can become a ghost. However, it is possible to commit true suicide by "pulling a Ribby" by getting lost in your own imagination. A character can also be deanthropomophised, or turned back into whatever they were created from.
  • This is what Gwynn from Sluggy Freelance is threatened with when K'Z'K takes over her body.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • This is what happens to "immortal" creatures like imps and elementals if somebody manages to kill them, because they have no soul that can continue on into the afterlife. It's noted at one point that this means "mortal" creatures like humans are actually less afraid of death than "immortal" creatures, because they know they'll continue on in some form and may even get resurrected at some point. Celia mentions that she'd just become one with the Plane of Air.
    • It's also stated to be the fate of anyone destroyed by the Snarl, though there's evidence that this may not be true.
    • As the characters live in an RPG-Mechanics Verse (and know it), it's been noted that this isn't always the case, and that the rules of what happens to Outsiders (the immortal creatures of the Outer Planes) if they're killed keeps getting changed.
  • Offhandedly mentioned in Misfile. Oddly enough, it's not a universal rule.
    Ramael: When a human dies, it's like getting an eternal vacation. A dead angel is just dead.
  • In Slightly Damned, while Medians keep their bodies in the afterlife, Sakido informs Rhea (and the audience) that Angels and Demons have no afterlife. She dies 15 pages later.
  • In Homestuck, if you die, you can still continue on existing as a ghost appearing in dream bubbles. Unless, that is, the dream bubble is destroyed while you're inside it, in which case you, too, cease to exist forever.
    • It's hinted this is also what happens if you're still alive when the session is Scratched. Meenah didn't want that to happen so she blew herself and all her teammates up, going so far as to time it so that the Scratch would happen before the God Tiers would resurrect. All without knowing whether or not it would work (it did).
    • It should be noted that the above only applies to Sburb players. Non-players who die in the Homestuck universe (the guardians, for instance) don't get to join the dream bubble party and simply cease to exist. Additionally, players in doomed timelines who manage to survive until the timeline ceases to exist are erased from existence as well.
  • Off-White:
  • The Walkyverse appears to combine this with The Nothing After Death; after one character dies, he meets several others floating in an empty void; they have a brief debate about whether this is "purgatory" or just the residual energy of their minds bouncing around space before dissipating entirely.
  • In Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal #3566, hell only lasts for sixty seconds, starting out with the devil telling you you're going to fade into nothingness after that and continuing with his spending the rest of the time dancing and singing teenage pop music and refusing to answer your panicked questions.

    Web Original 
  • In Fine Structure, there's supposed to be an afterlife, with dead souls ascending to a higher dimension. The presence of the Imprisoning God causes all souls to be obliviated against the edge of 3+1 space.
    • Paul Klick used the Klick Device to open a hole in reality, intending to take a shortcut to be with his dead wife. A little over 900,000 people - the population of central Berlin - went through the hole. Word of God is that the plan failed utterly - no one gets past the Imprisoning God. Ever.
      • Before Klick used his Klick Device though, and after the Imprisoning God has no need to block the universe, this no longer applies. Word of God states he initially intended for Klick's plan to have accidentally ascended the population of Berlin, but changed it to them having died when it was pointed out that they would've been able to escape the Imprisoning God.
  • SCP Foundation: Happened to one of the test subjects of SCP-896 when he tampered with the SCP's source code to maximize his stats during a containment breach. His account had one single server message on it: "User has been banned for hacking".

    Western Animation 
  • Due to Never Say "Die", the Decepticons from Transformers G1 regularly threatened their opponents with "oblivion", implying that they and/or Cybertronians in general did not believe in an afterlife. Note that this was before 'sparks' became a part of the franchise's mythology.
  • In the Series Finale of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, it's pointed out via extreme Breaking the Fourth Wall that anytime a show ends everyone and everything in the universe it takes place in ceases to exist.
  • Adventure Time: Disturbingly implied to be the case if BMO ever stopped working in "BMO Lost"; after having his batteries removed then replaced hours later, BMO cheerfully replies "I didn't have any dreams!"
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In the final arc of the series, this is implied to be what happens to everyone after death who is not force-sensitive or has not become one with the force. Although it is possible that this could be just the Jedi's (somewhat selfish) view on death. (Other sources suggest that an afterlife is possible for all virtuous sentient beings.) Cessation of Existence is also a core belief of the Sith: they don't belief in life after death, and their fear of this motivates them to hold onto life no matter what, even going so far as to try and discover eternal life. Since the only canon Sith ghost turned out to be an illusion, it's probably true at least for them.
    • Although this has been contradicted by certain things that have been suggested in Star Wars sourcebooks and elsewhere, such as that the Sith fear death not because it ends all, but because after it (for Sith and Dark Jedi, at least) comes drifting through the Dark Side forever and permanent insanity. When Sheev Palpatine was cloned back to life in the Dark Empire comic book series, he remembered at the very least the details of his defeat and death at the end of his previous life, about which he was very, very, very angry. This extreme anger, combined with the psychotic tendencies induced in his spirit by a mishandling of the cloning process, turned Palpatine into a maniacal nihilist, causing him to lash out at everyone and everything – even, to some extent, his own former Imperials – and try to bring about the destruction of every inhabited world in existence with his Galaxy Gun, a sort of Death Star on steroids. Though much of this is no longer canon, so it still might be true for dark siders.