"When someone survives due to a sequence of freak events we call it a miracle. But when someone dies due to a sequence of freak events, that's also a miracle. Just because it isn't nice, doesn't mean it's not miraculous."
A Necro Non Sequitur puts a character on a one-way track at full speed, destination 6 feet under, on the "What the hell was that?" express
. Characters who die by this trope meet their demise in the form of a cosmic Rube Goldberg Device
of coincidences, with everything lining up just so
to ensure that the sheer impossibility of how they were killed works like clockwork
. Sometimes it's long and tedious, sometimes it's quick and convenient, but no matter what, it cannot make any sense whatsoever when one looks at it close enough.
Depending on the situation, the COD could be used for a number of plotlines; the three biggest being (1) to give the investigators something more oddball to occupy their time with and (2) to convey that some higher power has an active hand in things
, and is a sick, sick little monkey to boot
, or 3.) the writers were concentrating on ways to create a Cruel and Unusual Death
in order to generate pure, unadulterated horror.
When this is an Invoked Trope
, see Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts
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Anime and Manga
- A death curse causes a few of these deaths in Another. The first such death is a girl who trips on a staircase and gets impaled by the pointy end of an umbrella at the bottom.
- Played with in Death Note. The user of the Death Note can specify the circumstances of their victim's death, including what exactly they do before death, offering a limited degree of Mind Control over the victim; however, if the specified circumstances are physically impossible, or the actions described are completely out of character, the victim will simply die of a heart attack in 40 seconds as usual. (Suicide is apparently not considered "out of character" as far as the Death Note is concerned.)
- The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service has an insurance salesman in one arc who found a way to play with probability and kill people through untraceable freak accidents for profit. By the end of the arc, he's killed when a screw falls off a plane flying by, hitting him in the head at terminal velocity.
- In The Sandman, Morpheus meets his end due to one of these. It is implied that it wasn't so much this trope as a Gambit Roulette set up by himself.
- In The DCU, supervillain Major Disaster sells his soul to the demon Neron in exchange for the power to be able to create this kind of chain of events.
- This is the entire premise of the Final Destination film series, though the worst offender comes from one of the novels: Going in for some liposuction, one of the women fated to die, along with the doctors and nurses on call, gets knocked out. When she awakens hours later, she finds that the machine is still on and had sucked out all her internal organs.
- The most convoluted death was that of the teacher from the first film, who pours out her coffee because it is too hot, pours cold vodka into the cup instead which creates a crack in the cup due to the rapid change in temperature, causing a leak which short-circuits her computer monitor causing the screen to explode in her face sending glass into her neck, starting a fire, then stumbling into the kitchen WHILE THE FIRE STILL BURNS THE HOUSE, tripping and falling onto the floor, pulling down a towel to hold against her neck without realizing it was on top of a knife rack, causing a knife to fall directly into her chest, and still surviving until the main character reaches her house, when an explosion from the fire knocks over a chair, which lands on the knife and pushes it further into her chest, finally killing her. And then her house explodes.
- A character dies this way in Frankenfish (incidentally being the only character not killed by the fish). The main action takes place on houseboats, through a complicated series of events there ends up being an unoccupied houseboat, on fire, with various weapons laying on it. Just as one character on another houseboat starts explaining how they have a plan to escape, the heat from the fire causes one of the guns lying on the deck to go off, shooting that character in the face. Which when you think about it doesn't make any sense whatsoever. A few seconds later an explosion on the burning boat sends a flaming piece of wreckage soaring over the main characters houseboat and down into the houseboat behind it (also occupied). Though no one dies from that.
- In The Science of Discworld III: Darwin's Watch, the influence of the Auditors (who desire to hold up human progress so we don't escape Earth before it becomes a snowball) means that in every single Alternate Universe, Darwin dies in increasingly unlikely ways before he can write The Origin of Species.
- Interesting Times also mentions this effect in one of Pratchett's archetypal footnotes.
- And also demonstrates it. When Rincewind gets sent by the wizards, they just happen to get a lit cannon in return due to the nature of the spell. Ponder stops it firing, seemingly in innocent subversion of an overused trope. Most of a Novel later they decide to bring Rincewind Back, and light the cannon again just to leave it as they found it. Guess what happens to the main villain....
When someone survives due to a sequence of freak events we call it a miracle. But when someone dies due to a sequence of freak events, that's also a miracle. Just because it isn't nice, doesn't mean it's not miraculous.
- Aornis Hades, from Thursday Next's Lost In a Good Book, specializes in these, thanks to her ability to control entropy and coincidences - Thursday senses her presence by shaking a jar of lentils and rice; if they form patterns, watch out. In fact, Fforde in general seems to like these.
- "Try and Change the Past" by Fritz Leiber, in which a Time Soldier tries to use his tools to prevent his own past death. (Time Soldiers are recruited just before the moment of their death, but - for handwaved reasons - remember dying.) He goes back and prevents himself from being shot, only to see his past self, with a look of despair, pick up the gun and shoot himself. So he goes back again and disables the gun - only to see his past self hit by a bullet-sized meteorite in exactly the same place the bullet struck in the previous two deaths. At which point he understandably gives up.
- In The Dresden Files, an "entropy curse" causes bad luck and is a magical way of murdering without it being detectable (by mundane means, at least.) A sloppy one can result in positively cartoonish ways of dying instead of the preferred plausible accidents.
- For example, one victim was hit by a runaway car... while water skiing. One was stung to death by bees that appeared out of nowhere in the trunk of her car. But perhaps the most spectacular was when Harry redirected the curse at the last moment to an attacking vampire, only to see him crushed by a frozen turkey falling at terminal velocity. And then the timer dings.
- Arguably, John Dickson Carr's The Hollow Man, often considered with some justification to be the definitive Locked Room Mystery. It's a very clever explanation, but the more you think about it, the less likely it becomes.
- Similarly to the Science Of Discworld example, And Another Thing... has Fate get so piqued at Arthur's survival that every other Arthur Dent in the multiverse gets killed in ways ranging from the plausible (being run over by the bulldozer when lying outside his house) to the less so (being electrocuted by his headphones while at his local radio job). Most of them are Continuity Nods, with the cleverest example probably being the Arthur who drowns in a freak rainstorm after pissing off Rob McKenna.
- Geist The Sin Eaters mentions that these are the kinds of deaths that claim the Forgotten the first time around.
- In Mage: The Ascension this is a typical result of pissing off an Entropy mage. Many players favour this method of assassination as it is 1) "coincidental magic" (much safer than obvious displays of supernatural powers) and 2) allows them to get sadistically creative
- Many Urban Legends deal with these kinds of deaths, with some covered by the various CSI: Crime Scene Investigation incarnations.
- MythBusters has been known to test these crazy deaths, though they use crash test dummies, ballistics gel, and data-gathering instruments to determine whether a person would actually die in the circumstance and how. For example, in a myth where someone was decapitated by a ceiling fan, they determined that while the ceiling fan could certainly deliver a deadly blow, it could not completely sever head from body.