Marked to Die

Sometimes in works of fiction, a special form of foreshadowing is used that is overt in a way that even the characters can see: something happens to someone that makes him or her a sure target for being killed off in the near future. Typically the mark of death is not fatal in a Truth in Television-type way; it does not refer to a potentially terminal illness or a life-threatening injury. The "mark", in this case, refers to a signal, either physically attached to the victim or separate, visible or invisible, that denotes that the character's time is limited.

Depending on the nature of the mark, the characters may or may not be aware of their impending doom. Physical blemishes, brandings, and other things applied directly to his or her body or clothing may seem perfectly innocuous, unless the character happens to be sufficiently genre savvy. The mark may also appear elsewhere, allowing it serve as a form of dramatic irony for the benefit of the audience. Prophetic dreams and visions may also serve as a "mark" of sorts, if it specifically claims that a character will soon die.

See also: Secret Stab Wound, Incurable Cough of Death, Kiss of Death, and Black Spot. Compare You Are Already Dead.

Needs a Better Description


Anime & Manga
  • In the animated version of Ginga Densetsu Weed any time a character has their ear bitten off, it's a pretty sure sign their death is coming up pretty soon.
  • Death Note. Anyone whose name is written into the Death Note is marked to die after a period of time.
    • Humans have an allotted time to live that is displayed above their heads when viewed through the eyes of a Shinigami.

Comic Books
  • In the Astro City mini-series, The Dark Ages, a character is marked for death by the vigilante Blue Knight by the appearance of a crosshairs on the back of his neck.
  • In X, this is X's trademark. A single diagonal slash across your face meant that you were warned and you'd better not break his rules again; if he completed the X, he killed you. No exceptions.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: A character was marked with a literal black spot on his hand.
  • The creatures in the horror movie They mark their victims with a dime-sized sore that houses a long, thin bone. This mark is used to track their victims down when the creatures are ready to eat.
  • In The Frighteners, a number appears on the forehead of the person that the reaper is going to come after.
  • The Final Destination series is pretty much built on this trope.
  • L: change the WorLd: After writing his name in the Death Note at the end of the live action Death Note movie, L has 23 days left to live. Using that time to solve cases, L is essentially invincible until his time runs out.

  • In Treasure Island, Billy Bones receives "The Black Spot," which means he's about to die.
  • Happens in a few Stephen King books. In Insomnia, Ralph is able to tell when people are about to die when they are surrounded by a black "deathbag". In Doctor Sleep, Danny has visions of flies crawling across a person's face when they are about to die or have a serious illness.
  • In King's The Dark Tower series, when a Ka-Tet is about to end, they feel Ka-Shume, a sense that the parting of ways is coming.
  • The Last Dragon Chronicles: Ms.Gee, literally, by Hannah. Hannah threw her dead ancestors hand at Ms.Gee, and she caught it, dooming her to a horrible death.

Live-Action TV
  • In a third season episode of Criminal Minds, the victims all appear on "Have You Seen Me" posters before they disappear.
  • In Doctor Who's "The Curse of the Black Spot", anyone whose blood is drawn on the pirate ship has a black spot appear on their arm, and is promptly lured in and then disintegrated by a siren. It's subverted in the end: the "siren" is an advanced medical hologram, and the disintegration actually teleports them into a spaceship's sickbay.
  • Agent Demetri Noh.