open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- The Cowboy Bebop episode "Sympathy for the Devil" had an immortal child named Wen whose circadian rhythms were disrupted due to the gate explosion that makes up part of the series Back Story, resulting in him not aging like he should. The vast energy of the explosion was enclosed into the gem of a ring that his latest victim, Giraffe, threatened to use to "return time to him." Spike crafts the gem into a bullet and then puts it through Wen's skull during their final battle. Wen rapidly ages to death before Spike's very eyes.
- In Witch Hunter Robin, a Witch of the Week who had been alive for apparently thousands of years by feasting on others' life force crumbled into mere sand when his powers were taken from him.
- Tsubaki from InuYasha had this happen when all of her yōkai were killed and her jewel shard was taken back by Naraku. In the manga, she just began to look her true age (about the same age as Kikyo if Kikyo hadn't died); in the anime, she turned into dust.
- Averted (and, to an extent, inverted) in Code Geass. When V.V. loses his Code, he just dies, though that's almost certainly from the injuries sustained in a Humongous Mecha battle earlier that episode. When C.C.'s Code is temporarily sealed, she mentally regresses to the last point in her life where she was a normal girl — which was before she got her Geass, when she was 10 years old and living in the Dark Ages. Dialog in a later episode implies that this has happened to her before.
- Used to an extreme in ×××HOLiC due to the details of the prolonged existence of the immortal in question. When said immortal dies several hundred years after they were meant to, not only does their body vanish (presumably into the scattered dust it would otherwise be by now), but almost everyone's memories of her vanish and adjust to how they would be if she had died on schedule.
- Fullmetal Alchemist
- Hohenheim shows the marks from transmutation all over his skin when he loses all the philosopher's stones in his body. Then he ages to what is not exactly his true age, but old age nonetheless and dies by the end of the day...ish. Traveling to Trisha's grave probably took a little while.
- Similarly, once Furher Bradley's Philosopher's stone runs out, he ages rapidly.
- Tsunade of Naruto has something that looks a bit like this. She's in her 50s (at least) but wears an illusion to make her appear much younger. She also focuses most of her chakra on the seal on her forehead as a reserve which she can draw on in battle to give her perfect regeneration - at the cost of increased aging. At the end of the battle she is too tired to be able to maintain her illusion, which looks like massive rapid aging - but there's no way to tell just how bad the extra aging she took was, since we don't know how old she really looked under the illusion beforehand.
- Its not really an 'illusion', more of a physical transformation using ninjutsu. Tsunade's transformation takes a lot of chakra to maintain after 10-20 years of non-ninja activity, after three years of retraining she doesn't have that problem when she uses up her chakra in the battle against Madara.
- In Howl's Moving Castle, the Witch of the Waste manages to survive her Immortality Failure, only to age, shrink, and become completely senile.
- In Sailor Moon Crystal, Queen Beryl was a human from Earth who sold her soul to Queen Metalia, who gave her a necklace containing her power, which made her both powerful and not ageing for hundreds of years. When Sailor Moon destroys the necklace, Beryl turns to dust.
- Happened to Captain America after he died. In one alternate future in Ultimate Marvel, he died instantly due to this when his Super Serum was nullified.
- In Fallen Angel, Juris, sick of being Magistrate of the magical Genius Loci city Bete Noir, passed the mantle onto his son so he could finally leave the city. Upon going beyond the city limits, he aged rapidly and ultimately crumbled to dust.
- In Sonic the Hedgehog/Knuckles the Echidna, mad scientist Dimitri, after messing with a Chaos Emerald, wound up absorbing its power, and was trapped under a mountain for hundreds of years. Knuckles accidentally 'woke' him up, and Dimitri, now calling himself Enerjak, set about to conquering Knuckles' home land. However, when Mammoth Mogul came to the scene, he used the Sword of Acorns to drain all of the Chaos energy from Enerjak, and all those years definitely caught up to him. He was forced to live in an entirely robotic body just to survive, and many issues after that, only his robotic head is alive. (If you can call that 'living'.)
- X-Men: Selene tends to age very rapidly when her store of life force runs low.
- Happens a couple of times in Thorgal, always milked for all the Nightmare Fuel it is worth.
- To explain how Nick Fury remains relatively young while being a World War II vet, it was revealed that he was dosed with an experimental "Infinity Formula" by a doctor who found the wounded Fury after he stepped on a land mine. For a while, if he stopped taking it, he'd age rapidly - not even up to his current age, but past it. After a few decades, however, his body seems to have synthesized the stuff, and he no longer has the dependency.
- The 1945 Marvel Family #1 (the first team-up of all the Marvels) featured the origin story of Black Adam. He originally gained his powers from the wizard Shazam 5,000 years ago. After he gained his superpowers he decided to conquer the world and Shazam sent him into outer space 5,000 light years away. Black Adam spent the next 5,000 years traveling back to Earth at the speed of light, arriving in modern times. The Marvels tricked him into saying the word "Shazam", which changed him back into his non-powered form. Unfortunately for him his accumulated age caught up to him and he suffered from Rapid Aging, turning into a skeleton.
- Billy Batson uses that trick to defeat him again in the New 52.
- Averted with Giles' aunts in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His aunts used magic to maintain their youth, but all the end of magic did was make them start aging normally again. It's still bad news, since they both made deals with demons that would make them forfeit their souls at the first sign of aging. Not long after they get their first gray hairs, a bunch of demons come knocking on their door.
- Ruby Summers (daughter of Scott Summers and Emma Frost from a future timeline shown in X-Factor) keeps her youthful appearance by staying in her ruby form. While she doesn't know for sure, she thinks that if she were to return to her human form the 80 years she's spent in her ruby form would catch up to her instantly, possibly killing her. Understandably, she doesn't want to test this hypothesis.
- Tales of Telguuth: When a thief visits a Vanishing Village that exists outside of time, he and the queen manage to defeat the evil sorcerer who is keeping the city tethered in timeless space. However, when she offers him to join them and live in bliss together forever, he grabs her and takes her outside instead, where she instantly decays into dust because she's really 47,000 years old. Then he gets an axe in his skull as well courtesy of his backstabbing partner.
Films — Animation
- In Tangled, Rapunzel's hair can heal and restore youth, but if said hair is cut, the person who gained youth from it begins to age rapidly. The hair's effect also wears off just by physical separation. The above-mentioned person visibly aged a decade after being away from the hair for less than a day; a week or longer might've been fatal. At the end of the movie when all of Rapnuzel's hair is cut, Mother Gothel begins to rapidly age but wraps her cloak around her body before it turns graphic. She then falls out the tower window and her body has dissolved into dust by the time it lands. She was implied to be several hundred years old.
- Used on Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, though here, it was a case of Better to Die Than Be Sent Back into Space for 10,000 Years.
Films — Live-Action
- The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen film: Dorian Gray after he sees his portrait. Justified by the mechanism of his immortality: the portrait took on the effects of aging and injury for him.
- The grisly fate of Morgan Le Fay in Excalibur, rendered in a very Nightmare Fuel-efficient way.
- In Forever Young, Mel Gibson's character was cryogenically frozen for almost 50 years, and didn't age during that time. However, the effect wore off and he eventually aged, looking the same as he would have if he hadn't been frozen. (Which worked out well for him, since he could then be reunited with his lost love, who was now an old woman.)
- In Bullet Proof Monk, at the end of each monk's tenure, when he passes the power of the scroll on to the next monk after fifty years of agelessness (and bulletproofness), he reverts to his natural age.
- In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, after Bilbo Baggins leaves the One Ring behind for Frodo and travels to Rivendell, his Ring-deferred years catch up with him and he becomes quite elderly. (In the book, there are 18 years between Bilbo's departure and our catching up to him at Rivendell; in the film it seems to be a few months.) And then he ages even more dramatically after the Ring is destroyed.
- Played straight in the Ishiro Honda movie Latitude Zero at the death of Lucretia.
- The Hunger has a true vampire who can only provide her playthings with youth for about two hundred years; after that, time rapidly catches up with them, and they become dessicated husks. She usually keeps these husks, for sentimental reasons.
- The film adaptation of She, when the title character makes the mistake of re-entering the fountain of youth.
- There is a German gay porn movie named Boytropolis, which depicts a community of guys living in the jungle, minding their own business, and keeping themselves young and handsome by drinking a potion made out of plants. If they're deprived of it, they melt.
- Horror of Dracula has a hot young vampiress◊ who turns into an old corpse◊ when staked.
- Count Dracula himself, who is believed to be centuries old, turns to dust when he finally meets his end.
- On the other hand, Lucy, who was a vampire only for a few days, retains her youthful beauty when Van Helsing puts her to rest.
- Zordon starts aging "at an accelerated rate" when Ivan Ooze breaks him out of his time-warp capsule in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie. Later in the film, the immortal Dulcea tells the Rangers that she too will rapidly age if she leaves her domain on the planet Phaedos.
- Snow White and the Huntsman: The antagonist and her brother shrivel up before dying from mortal wounding.
- In Vamps, Goody and Stacy become human again after killing the vampire who sired them. Stacy is relatively unchanged since she's only forty years old. Goody however, was turned in 1841. Stacy takes this badly since Goody never revealed her true age until that moment. As time quickly catches up to Goody, her friends take her out to Times Square for a last bit of fun. As Goody enjoys a baked pretzel, she reminisces about her life. As the sun rises, Goody crumbles to dust.
- In The Wolverine, when Logan's healing factor is sucked out of him, he ages rapidly, gaining wrinkles, hair turning grey and his eyes clouding over as if he suddenly developed severe cataracts.
- In Age of Adeline, this is ultimately subverted. When Adeline's body begins aging normally, she looks the same as she always did, save for her noticing a grey hair.
- In The Last Witch Hunter, when Chloe destroys Danique's youth charm, the Femme Fatale sorceress quickly turns into an old crone. It's implied that the charm wasn't keeping her young as much as it was projecting an illusion.
- When Shang Tsung is killed at the end of Mortal Kombat, his body rapidly deteriorates into a skeleton. What's truly bizarre about this is that while he enjoyed enslaving the souls of others, his immortality was a completely natural part of his biology. Unless the freed souls had something to do with it, he should have decayed like anyone else.
- Played with in Münchhausen. The Baron, who due to a magic spell has been in his forties for nearly 200 years, decides Who Wants to Live Forever? and gives up his magic charm, because he doesn't want to outlive his aging wife. He then immediately ages, but only to an age that matches hers.
- Book 17 of the Lone Wolf series The Deathlord of Ixia combines this with Load-Bearing Boss. Killing the Big Bad breaks the enchantment that kept the city of Xaagon in a suspended state. The moment Lone Wolf strikes the killing blow, milennia of wear and tear catch up to the city, and Lone Wolf has to haul ass out of there. Breaking the spell also removes the permanent cloud cover over the city, allowing sunlight to warm Ixia again.
- In Larry Niven's short story The Magic Goes Away (found in the collection of the same name) The Warlock deliberately consumes the magic-sustaining "mana" in the area to defeat a demon; it works but as a result he also loses the benefit of said magic and ages rapidly. At one point he spits out a complete set of now-blackened teeth.
- In Dragon Bones this is what happens to Oreg, after his Heroic Sacrifice. No aging is described, though, he simply becomes dust, while Castle Hurog, which is tied to his life, collapses.
- In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian is kept eternally young while his picture turns hideous and ancient. When he destroys the picture, his servants find the picture of a young Dorian and a crumpled, ancient corpse on the floor, only recognizing him by his rings. An extreme example as by the calendar Dorian should be barely middle-aged — about 40 — by now anyway (although he's implied to have led a reckless and toxic lifestyle).
- "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" by Edgar Allan Poe.
- In Much Fall of Blood, this happens to Elizabeth Bartholdy. Somewhat justified in that the immortality treatment had to be maintained at regular intervals.
- The Dresden Files
- Cassius is a Denarian who surrenders his immortalizing Phlebotinum coin so the honorable Knights won't kill him. He taunts the knights by saying he need only return to the Big Bad for a replacement coin, but he never manages it. The next time Harry sees him, Cassius is an incredibly old and desperate man.
- In Changes, the half vampires after Harry lets loose with the bloodline curse.
- In Perry Rhodan, the devices providing certain main characters with immortality, poison resistance, and improved natural healing were for the longest time simple pendants usually worn on a chain; if ever lost or destroyed, the wearer had about 62 hours to live before dying of accelerated cell decay. (After a couple of millennia or so of use and a crisis involving their creator, these have been replaced by implanted chips.)
- In one of the later Oz books (by Ruth Plumly Thompson, not Baum, but still canonical), Dorothy returns to the United States, and starts getting older. Luckily, it's reversed when she goes back to Oz.
- H. Rider Haggard's novel She. Thousands of years ago Ayesha stepped into a pillar of fire and became immortal. At the climax she steps into it again and reverts to her true age, withering and dying.
- In one early-ish Xanth book, Electra begins aging rapidly when she enters the magic-less Mundania. Incidentally, she's not actually immortal, she just slept for 700 years.
- The Lord of the Rings
- Bilbo Baggins begins to age at a somewhat accelerated pace after giving up the Ring, although he still lives for at least 20 years afterward. (In the movie, where the intervening years between Bilbo's farewell party and Frodo leaving Hobbiton are seemingly compressed to a few weeks or months, it's far more apparent.) Interestingly, Gollum, who had the Ring a lot longer than Bilbo, is still alive and mostly unchanged 75 years after losing it, probably because he was also a lot more corrupted by the Ring than Bilbo was.
- Gollum comments, however, that if the Ring is destroyed, he will "die into the dust," which fits this trope exactly, aside from him not getting the chance.
- It was implied that this would also happen to the 3,000 year old Nazguls upon the Ring's destruction, but this wasn't explicitly shown. In an indirect sort of way, this happened to the bearers of the elven Rings as well: the bearers are all immortal without the Rings, so we don't see them becoming older, but what happens to Elves as they age is that they tend to leave Middle-earth for Valinor... which is exactly what Elrond and Galadriel do a year later.
- The first book of the Mistborn series uses this trope. The Big Bad, who has essentially been the emperor of the entire world for the last thousand years or so managed to obtain immortality by heavily abusing multiple forms of magic, essentially keeping himself young with a number of magical trinkets. When they get removed, his youth does too.
- The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series:
- Not only are Nicholas and his wife rapidly aging without their book that has the recipe of the elixir of life (they can't rebrew it from the same process as last time because it changes every month and old recipes cause them to age faster). Also it is the standard punishment for an immortal that displeases their master Elder the have their immortality removed and quickly age to dust. John Dee's master has now threatened Dee with undoing it and just before Dee dies of age making Dee immortal at that age for the rest of eternity.
- The alternate universe, somewhat more benevolent, version of Nicholas Flamel was used in the first Harry Potter novel. He had used the Philosopher's Stone for centuries as a part of the process of brewing an elixir of life, but after learning that Voldemort was seeking it out, he and his wife willingly turned it over to Dumbledore for safekeeping. The trope is played straight, though bent sideways; without the Stone, Flamel only has a limited supply of the elixir remaining. Just enough, Dumbledore says, to put his affairs in order and finish up last-minute business before he and his wife pass on. Though it's not explicitly stated, the tone of it is that he will eventually pass away quietly of natural causes, without any skin-sloughing ickyness.
- Discworld did a non-living form of this in The Colour of Magic. Time was too afraid of Bel-Shamharoth to go anywhere near its temple. After Bel-Shamharoth flees to the nether realms, the temple ages thousands of years in a matter of seconds.
- The Meq subverts this by having the loss of their immortality be a vital part of their life cycle.
- The Wheel of Time
- Aes Sedai invert this. The One Power makes channelers naturally Long-Lived, with their aging slowed proportional to their lifespan, but a side effect of the Aes Sedai's magically binding Oaths makes them look oddly ageless instead. Losing their powers severs the Oaths and reverts their appearance to how they looked when they swore the Oaths, which can leave a centuries-old woman looking around twenty.
- Played straight with Ba'alzamon, who was close to three and a half thousand years old at the time of his death. After his death, his body is described as decaying at a tremendously accelerated rate.
- In I Am Legend, any vampire who was dead for quite a while before being raised (as opposed to those vampirized while living) crumble into dust as soon as Neville drives a stake into them. Neville recalls this process happening to dead people who opt to be preserved in a vacuum - if the vacuum failed, decay would catch up and reduce them to corpsedust.
- In The Spiderwick Chronicles, people whose lifespans have been prolonged by elven magic will age and die as soon as their feet touch the ground.
- Oskar Matzerath from The Tin Drum was a three-year old adult who remained a child out of his own free will. Once he had enough, he underwent the same process to reverse it. His years caught up to him immediately, although he was in his twenties at the time so it wasn't as dramatic as other examples here.
- The result of failing to keep up annual child sacrifices for immortality ritual in the Repairman Jack novels.
- In Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, the peculiar children are protected inside "time loops." The main group of protagonists have been living September 3, 1940 over and over for 70 years. If they go outside the time loop, into the 21st century, they'll age within a matter of hours. This wouldn't necessarily cause death immediately, since some of them would be in their eighties or nineties, but it's seen as undesirable anyway.
- When a vampire is killed in The Vampire Chronicles, its corpse looks as the person had been dead since the time they were turned. Newly-made vampires leave normal bodies, older ones leave dried-out husks, and even older ones disintegrate entirely.
- This happens to the Big Bad of the True Princess series by N. Egorushkina, once his immortality is Ret Gone. Justified since "Ret Gone" implies making it as if he never had the immortality in the first place.
- In Bryony and Roses by Ursula Vernon, it's mentioned that people transformed by curses don't age while the curse lasts, but when they regain their true form all their age catches up with them at once, with possibly disastrous results if they've been under curse for a long time. This becomes important when Bryony is able to break the Beast's curse at the end, because he's been a Beast for over a century and he'll be killed instantly if he becomes a man again.
- In the sequel to Impossible, it's subverted when Fenella completes her tasks and has her unnaturally-long lifespan ended. Despite being around for several centuries, she looks and feels just the same. Comments from the fairy queen and her brother indicate that assuming she doesn't die of other causes, Fenella will be able to live out a normal human lifespan.
- In Lucy's Blade, once Lilith absorbs all the energy from the crystal that was powering the Fountain of Youth through the titular blade, Lady Isabella, who had apparently been using said fountain for a very long time, reverts to her natural age and dies instantly.
- In Watersong, when a curse which grants immortality is lifted, the formerly cursed individuals instantly advance to their natural age. This usually means instant death if they're over a hundred years old, so the thousand-year-old sirens aren't very eager to get their curse lifted.
- In Shaman Blues, Tadeusz dies just a few hours after the wraith that kept him alive is sent away. Justified, as he's under constant medical care even when it's still around.
- In Void City, vampires have the power to slow, halt, or even reverse the ageing of the humans who serve them as thralls. If the vampire is destroyed, however, the thralls rapidly revert to their true ages.
- Averted in The Age of Five. An important item is hidden in an anti magic zone to keep immortals out. However immortals have inertia and simply age normally for the few moments it takes them to walk in and out.
- "Heroes" has Adam Monroe, when he got his ability stolen by Arthur Petrelli. They try to explain it by the fact that, over the centuries, Adam has died and was damaged so many times, that his Healing Factor kicked into overdrive. His cells are continuously dying and being recreated. So, when you remove the "recreating" part, it's clear why he suddenly crumpled into dust. It's possible that Claire will have the same problem in a few hundred years.
- A Monster of the Week in Smallville drained people's life force by kissing them. Once her means of retaining her Liquid Assets was destroyed, she crumbled away.
- Space: 1999
- The youthful villain of the episode "The Exiles" has spent 300 years in cryosleep; part of the technology involves a membrane, so thin it's invisible, covering his body. When Helena claws at the membrane, the years quickly catch up to him and he dies of old age.
- Also done in the episode "Death's Other Dominion": something about a certain ice world kept the survivors of an exploratory ship unaging for centuries. When one of them tries to leave... the effect is quite gruesome, and the fact that he's holding Helena's hand at the time doesn't help.
- The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Long Live Walter Jameson". A man lives more than 2,000 years due to drinking an alchemical potion of immortality. When he's shot and mortally wounded, the effect wears off and he ages into dust in minutes.
- The Outer Limits (1963): In the episode "The Guests", several people are trapped in a house where Time Stands Still. If they leave, they grow old rapidly and die.
- The Outer Limits (1995): Something like this happens in one of the new series episodes: a scientist finds a way to seemingly keep people young and immortal, however it is discovered that this is done by hyperstimulating the cells of the person in question, thus causing them to eventually grow old and die in a matter of weeks.
- The pilot episode of Eerie Indiana had a woman who was keeping herself and her children young forever by sealing them in bed-sized tupperware containers every night. When she was stopped, the three of them aged 30 years overnight.
- In the first season finale of Sanctuary, James Watson (almost THAT John Watson) finally dies. He had lived for over one hundred years thanks to a combination of Applied Phlebotinum and a special mechanical device that kept him young, but the device finally fails and Watson dies from accelerated aging. A flashback episode shows Watson being tortured by John Druitt by turning the device on and off, causing Watson great pain.
- Doctor Who:
- The Master does this to the Doctor by suspending his capacity to regenerate with a laser screwdriver and aging his physical appearance to that of his true age, all 900 years.
- Also in "State of Decay" — when the Great Vampire is destroyed, The Three Who Rule's thousand years of unlife suddenly catches up with them...
- Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Miri". Children live for hundreds of years due to a virus, but when they reach puberty they become ill and insane and die.
- Hex has immortal witch Ella Dee. At one point, Azazeal foils Ella by cutting off her powers with St John's Wort. This has the effect of rendering her mortal, and, well, how many mortals do you know that are over the age of 500?
- In The Hugga Bunch special, the evil queen Admira stays young by eating the fruit of the Youngberry tree at regular intervals. When the protagonists prevent her from getting the berries in time, she suddenly becomes wrinkled and eventually falls still, her skin turning ashen.
- Possibly averted in the fifth season of Angel. When Hamilton shows up to replace Eve, she loses her immortality but her appearance doesn't change. Of course, we don't know how old she was.
- Averted in Lost — when the immortal Richard Alpert loses his immortality after Jacob's ashes are burnt, he's perfectly fine, although he begins to age normally.
- Are You Afraid of the Dark?:
- In the episode "The Tale of Many Faces", the Big Bad falls dead and turns into a skeleton when given back her original face.
- "The Tale of the Captured Souls" (Season 1 Episode 7) features Peter who uses a machine to take life force from other people, and even animals, to stave off the effects of aging. The protagonist saves her parents by sabotaging his lab and giving back the life force he took from them, ultimately forcing him to spend his last remaining moments as a helpless, lonely old man.
- A third Big Bad (sense a theme here?) maintained her perfect beauty by luring vain girls in with a Magic Mirror before turning them into dogs to drain their life-force. Her plan fails when a girl whose low self-esteem ironically leaves her too skeptical to fall for the witch's flatter-based More Than Mind Control smashes the mirror. The witch, her house and place of business to crumble into dust.
- In Stargate SG-1, while the Goa'uld cannot grant true Immortality to their hosts, they can greatly extend their lifespans through the use of a sarcophagus. This however comes with the downside of rendering most of the older Goa'uld physically dependent on them. This is best shown when Apophis goes without his sarcophagus for a prolonged period as a prisoner of SG1 and his several thousand years slowly start to catch up with him, resulting in his (temporary) death.
- Averted in Once Upon a Time. Emma's decision to stay in Storybrooke causes time to start moving forward, but the residents don't gain back the 28 years they spent not aging. Which means that Emma is still roughly the same age as her parents.
- Averted in The Vampire Diaries when Katherine loses her Immortality after becoming human and only begins to age normally. Later however when the serum that made her human is drained from her blood, she starts to show signs of aging quickly and is estimated to die from old age in a few months.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World has a Spanish woman named Anna, who discovered the Fountain of Youth and remained young as long as she applied some of the water to her skin. This act caused a drought in the nearby area. She starts to age quickly when the water runs out (she ages fifty years over the course of a day), but when the water dries up at the source, she immediately crumbles to dust.
- This was part of the Con of the Week in a Mission: Impossible episode: A village had a water source that the group convinced the villain granted immortality, but the inhabitants would become decrepit corpses if deprived of it (which Shannon "demonstrates" by wearing two layers of masks when the mark "kidnaps" her.
- The New Avengers: The soldiers in the Russian 'secret army' who have been in 'cold storage' since World War II in the "K is for Kill" two-parter. When they are killed they revert to their biological age.
Myths & Legend
- In (some) folklore, usually what happens to vampires if you manage to actually kill them.
- In the Japanese folktale of Urashima Tarō, the title character returns home after living for only three days in Ryūgū-jō, the undersea kingdom of the Dragon God Ryūjin. Turns out a long time has passed in Japan and everyone he knew is now dead because of a tremendous time-differential in the undersea kingdom. He decides he has nothing left to lose and opens the box which he had been told to never open— causing him to disintegrate into dust as 300 years worth of age instantly catch up with him.
- This is also a recurring theme in the Western fairytales where the protagonist is spirited away into the Fairyland for centuries without realizing or feeling the passage of time. Sometimes they would return to the human world, only to discover that in the meantime year, decades, or even centuries had passed while they hadn't aged. Upon their return, all that missed time would catch up with the victim spectacularly.
- The Irish tale of Oisin (as well as possibly similar tales?) is like this. He is the son of the Irish hero Finn McCool and he falls in love with a fairy, who takes him away to Tir na Nóg (Land of the Young or Land of Youth) where each year inside lasts a century outside. When he decides to return to Ireland after three years he is given a horse and told not to touch the ground. 300 years have passed in Ireland and it is now a Christian country. He sees a man trying to lift a stone to build a road and offers to help but he falls of the horse and is transformed into an elderly man. In some versions of the tale he meets St Patrick before dying.
- The Voyage of Bran mac Febail is very similar; the title character and his companions travel to the "Land of Women"; one of them (Nechtan) becomes homesick and they venture back to Ireland, against the warnings of the Queen of the Land of Women. Centuries have passed in Ireland, and when Nechtan attempts to go ashore, he falls victim to this trope, crumbling to dust.
- This is why King Herla of The Wild Hunt can't get off his horse. He spent a few centuries at a fairy wedding party. As soon as he gets off of his horse (given to him by the fairies) and sets foot back on the earth of the mortal world, time will catch up and he'll age to death in a matter of seconds.
- Vampire: The Requiem
- The game makes it clear that the younger the vampire, the more... meaty the remains. Elder vampires just turn to dust when they die.
- Additionally, Ghouls (humans fed on vampire blood and granted some of its power) do not age as long as they get a dose of vitae once a month. If they miss it however, they rapidly age-up until they're where they should be.
- The same is true of both vampires and ghouls in the earlier game Vampire: The Masquerade.
- Dragon: The Embers: the Knights of the Bloody Chalice are a group of humans who keep themselves immortal by killing living beings (preferably supernatural ones, especially Dragons) and bathing in their blood. This only lasts for a year however (five for dragon blood), at which point the blood wears off and they start aging at an accelerated rate. It's not quite as bad as most examples on this page because they still get a delay of one month to bathe again, but past that delay, they literally are dust.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- While the spell "Polymorph Any Object" could conceivably be used for immortality, it is vulnerable to being dispelled, leaving them at either the age they started using it, or their actual age, depending on the DM.
- The plane of Thelanis in Eberron has a timeflow one-seventh that of the Material Plane. However, when a visitor returns to the Material Plane, that time catches up with them...
- 1st-2nd Edition. The Longevity potion reduces the drinker's age by 1-10 years. However, each time one is drunk there is a 1% cumulative chance that the effect of all previous potions will be reversed. If a 150 year old human has drunk many such potions and is effectively 50 years old when this occurs, they will suddenly become their true age and possibly die immediately of old age. Old age being one of the few irreversible ways of dying in D&D, this is a very serious threat.
- 2nd Edition Planescape setting supplement A Guide to the Astral Plane. While on the Astral Plane creatures do not age. If they ever leave the Astral Plane all of the delayed aging catches up to them, causing them to suffer Rapid Aging and become their true age. Returning to the Astral Plane doesn't reverse the aging.
- Mayfair Games' Role Aids supplement Dark Folk. Any creature that drinks from the Well of Life will cease aging for as long as the drinking continues. If 1 week passes without drinking, the creature will suddenly become its true age, possibly resulting in death by old age.
- Averted in Pathfinder with the alchemical "Sun Orchid Elixir", which reverts an individual to youth with no apparent side effects; they just age normally from that point on. The rarity of such magic without the sort of side effects listed above is so precious that an entire nation's economy is devoted to its production; they make six vials a year, sell them to the highest bidder for utterly exorbitant prices, and the elixir is so coveted that transporting it requires entire armies.
- One of the plots for a All Flesh Must Be Eaten campaign has an evil Chinese alchemist who found the formula for immortality. Some of the rare herbs just went extinct and he's looking for replacements, but he has to hurry because he's aging a year each month.
- Call of Cthulhu adventures:
- Cthulhu Companion adventure "The Secret of Castronegro". Bernardo Diaz has lived for 300 years due to the ruby ring he wears. If it's removed from his finger, he will instantly die and his body will shrivel.
- The Fungi from Yuggoth adventure "By the Bay Part I". Lang Fu's Coat of Life has allowed him to live for centuries. If it is ever removed for more than a few minutes, his body will begin an irreversible aging process that will cause his rapid death.
- Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign, chapter 3 "Egypt". Omar Shakti, the high priest of the Brotherhood of the Black Pharaoh, is several thousand years old. If the investigators kill him, his body will immediately crumble to dust.
- Rolemaster setting Shadow World.
- Supplement Demons of the Burning Night. While wearing the Helm of Kadaena the wearer accumulates 10 years of aging during each combat, but the Helm prevents the aging from taking effect. If the Helm is ever removed all of the aging immediately takes effect.
- Supplement Jaiman: Land of Twilight, adventure "Cult of the Third Moon". The Priestess and Sisters (acolytes) of the title cult have remained young for 150 years by Vampiric Draining the Life Energy from sacrificial victims. If the Priestess' amulet is removed she will suffer Rapid Aging, become her true age and die. If the amulet is destroyed, so will the Sisters.
- The infamous FATAL has armor (or armor pieces) "of agelessness", which slow down the wearer's aging by a factor of ten, but it all catches up when removed.
- Gamelords, Ltd.'s Thieves' Guild 8 adventure "The Secret of the Crystal Mountains". Centuries ago the adventurer Giles acquired a Lissar crystal, which kept him young until it was recently stolen from him. With the loss of the crystal he's aging at a rate of 10 years per week and will soon be dead.
- Avalon Hill's Powers & Perils game, Heroes magazine Volume 1 #2 adventure "Doom Manor". Anyone who lives in Doom Manor will cease aging for as long as they stay there. However, if they ever leave they will immediately become their true age. Several of the NPCs in the Manor have been in it for so long that they will die of old age if it happens to them.
- Briefly appears in MOTHER 3, afflicting the protective vines around Chupichupoyoi Temple.
- As Ōkami takes place in a Fantasy Kitchen Sink of Japanese myths and legends, it's unsurprising that Urashima shows up. However, this time his Immortality Failure results in a happy ending, as he is now once again the same age as his wife.
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind left inconclusive the effect of losing the immortality granted by Lorkhan's Heart. Dagoth Ur disappeared in a pool of lava beneath a collapsed cavern. For the Tribunal, however, Vivec mentions that they're able to persist as mortals with a trace of their divinity still in-tact thanks to the faith of their followers. Despite this, Almalexia goes mad and kills Sotha Sil, then is herself by the Nerevarine in the Tribunal expansion, while Vivec mysteriously disappears a few years later, so it remains uncertain just how much "inertia" they really had.
- World of Warcraft
- It's been suggested, but not confirmed, that a weird or mild form of this is happening to the night elves. According to the lore, they are naturally long-lived on the order of a lifespan of a few hundred years, they were magically granted immortality ten thousand years ago, and it was revoked less than a decade ago. After less than a decade, some are starting to show signs of age beyond where they left off; for example, Tyrande Whisperwind (leader of the night elves) was a young adult at the time of being granted immortality. In the game right now, she's developed fairly noticeable crow's feet, even though if she were to continue aging normally from where she left off, that shouldn't happen for centuries. It's left vague whether this is age catching up to the elves or simply the effects of stress(which they are under a lot of), however.
- Aegwynn is in a similar boat, using her powers as Guardian to extend her life for more than 800 years. After expending most of her magic (read: having it forcibly ripped from her body by her own son) some thirty-odd years prior to Vanilla WoW, she no longer has the power to keep herself young, and has been steadily aging as a result. Though the comics would show otherwise... This is because, after her banishment, she comes back to use her remaining magic to resurrect her son (after he is decapitated by his own apprentice), who, in turn, used his powers to give his mother proper retirement. She is given a hidden house in a valley in Kalimdor, protected by multiple wards (one of which keeps her healthy) and thunder lizards. Then Jaina Proudmoore decides to settle the valley...
- Discussed and averted in Final Fantasy Dimensions. When Matoya gives up the artifact that halted her aging for over a century to help the heroes, one of your party members wonders why she isn't going through Rapid Aging. Matoya explains that the artifact doesn't work that way. She's just going to start aging normally again without it.
- At the end of Dragon's Dogma, after defeating the Dragon, Duke Edmun immediately transforms from a middle-aged man to an elderly, shriveled wreck while the Dragonforged crumbles away into dust.
- At the end of Sly 2: Band of Thieves, Clockwerk's hate chip is destroyed, causing his metal body parts to rust into nothingness.
- Death is Cheap in the world of Fallen London; those that die in the Neath tend to get better, provided that whatever killed them didn't render their body too unusable. This is because the light of the Sun is what normally enforces such laws as "people die when they are killed", meaning that anyone who has died in the Neath can never return to the surface, lest the Sun's rays shrivel them like a slug. In fact, if you are foolhardy enough to Seek Mr Eaten's Name, you will eventually find yourself with the opportunity to do just that — and yes, it really kills your character permanently.
- In Sinfest, when she no longer bursts into flames on entering the Reality Zone, Fuschia starts to crumble. She contents herself with painting the contents from the edge.
- In Sorcery 101, curing lycanthropy is actually pretty simple—after their first transformation werewolves have tails in human form, and cutting it off will cure them. The thing is, werewolves also have a Healing Factor, and curing the lycanthropy makes every injury it's fixed automatically reappear. Most of the recurring werewolf characters had fatal injuries before they found out/were able to implement this trick.
- The Paradox Space story The Thirst of Dornamon Gary ends with Hella Jeff's immortality-granting t-shirt getting torn, and him instantly becoming the rotting corpse that was pictured on it.
- Downplayed in True Villains: the 87-year-old Necromancer Elia's body is "held together" by Dark magic, which means she collapses from organ failure the moment the effect is disrupted. However, a healer is able to keep her alive until she wakes up and fixes the spells. She retains her youthful appearance all the while — because it came from a young lady whose skin she'd stolen.
- One episode of Justice League Unlimited ends with Morgan Le Fay's spoiled son keeping his immortality, but losing his youth, turning him into a shriveled, toothless and senile old man. The creepy part is that his mother seems happy about this, since Mordred can't disobey her anymore.
- A Totally Spies! episode features an age-sucking villain. When the heroines disable his magic crystal thingy, he crumbles into dust. Of course, since the show is made for kids and younger teens, they couldn't actually address that he died, instead having the heroines just confusedly say that he "disappeared."
- A Freakazoid! episode has the villainess dying in such a manner when she fails to drain Freakazoid's essence in time.
- In a Nightmare Fuel moment for the Captain Marvel cartoon, the villain Black Adam was tricked into saying "Shazam," and reverted to his "mortal form." He hadn't previously assumed that form in several thousand years, being a native of ancient Egypt. He crumbled instantly into dust. An unexpected Family-Unfriendly Death, made worse by the normally Technical Pacifist heroes manipulating him into killing himself. (To be fair to the heroes, they probably didn't know de-powering him would have this effect.) This actually happened in the comic book too.
- There are similar sequences in Batman: The Brave and the Bold (except here, Adam is betrayed by a fellow villain).
- In Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Robotnikotep IV actually disintegrates after having the Chaos Emerald of Immortality taken from him by his descendant — however, he seems vaguely happy about this because it frees him from having to deal with a mummified blue hedgehog.
- In the Samurai Jack episode "Jack and the Lava Monster", Jack defeats a warrior who had been immortal for thousands of years as a punishment from Aku. He immediately ages to look about 80, but that's still pretty spry for someone in their thousands. This is exactly what he wanted, though, since it allowed his suffering to come to an end and he could finally join his friends and family in Valhalla—valkyries descend from the heavens to take him to the afterlife right in front of Jack.
- Averted in Highlander: The Animated Series, where most of the immortals had performed some kind of magic ritual that allowed them to transfer their special skills to The Chosen One without doing the whole head-cutting-off-thing. Instead of dying upon transfer, they simply lose their immortality and will live out a natural lifespan from whatever their physical age is. Considering they live in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, though, this probably won't take very long.
- Adventure Time:
- A very sad case in the episode "Betty". Ice King becomes Simon again after an Anti-Magic abomination drains his crown's powers. Unfortunately, the crown is also his Immortality Inducer, and time quickly catches up with him. In the end, Betty defeats the villain of the episode to return the crown's magic, turning Simon into Ice King again.
- A stranger case occurred in "Sons of Mars": Abraham Lincoln exchanges his immortality to Death in order to bring Jake Back from the Dead after being wrongfully executed. We hear a gunshot and Lincoln is replaced with his own monument, implying his immortality was something he had as president that was removed retroactively, allowing him to be assassinated.
- From the episode "The Old Man and the Key" from The Simpsons:
Abe: Tennessee Ernie Ford? Now I know you're dead.
Tennessee: No, you just think I'm dead.
Abe: No, you're dead. I was your biggest fan. Look, I clipped your obituary. (shows him clipping)
Tennessee: *gasp* (turns into dust)
- This is entirely unconfirmed, but in Rainbow Rocks, some believe this to be the reason why we never see the Dazzlings again following the time their pendants (which kept them alive as humans for a thousand years) were destroyed.
- Sans any evidence to support that idea, this example actually stands as one of the rare villainous Aversions to the trope. At the end of the movie they've only lost their voices, but their youth seems intact.
- In the Simsala Grimm episode "Snow White", the Evil Queen breaks her mirror, which was the only thing keeping her young, in a rage. Then, she starts to age rapidly (with her hands remaining as they were before that). Fortunately, there's no Family-Unfriendly Death here: she just disappears in a blue zap.