The Nothingness is an afterlife where souls go to a bleak, featureless Plane of (Non) Existence. Whether or not this 'non-existence' involves the souls's existence and whether or not the souls is consciously aware of the lack of existence around it is up to writer.
Not to be confused with the idea that there is literally nothing after death: no darkness, no featureless planes, no conscious awareness, or simply a Cessation of Existence. Some people find that thought comforting; to others, it is worse. This trope is when there is something after death, and that something is empty space.
Sometimes this used as an Ironic Hell against a Flat Earth Atheist, but just as frequently, Nothingness does not discriminate and everyone, good and bad, goes there.
A possible explanation for Death Amnesia, and a possible destiny for those who are Barred from the Afterlife.
Compare Void Between the Worlds. See also White Void Room.
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Anime and Manga
In Paprika, death is symbolized as a black hole if you're in the dying person's mind. And due to the MacGuffin's Instrumentality power, things get worse from there.
In Houshin Engi, when Taikobo is apparently killed, he finds himself in this sort of situation and wonders if this is what death is. However, it was something else entirely.
Dragon Ball: This is what happens to anyone killed by King Piccolo and his creations (until they're brought back at least), since they are creatures of pure evil. The first sign of Piccolo Junior's dangerously approaching Heel-Face Turn is that Goku and Raditz were allowed to pass on to the afterlife (King Kai's planet and Hell respectively) in Dragon Ball Z.
Nasuverse: The concept of The Origin is fundamentally similar to this, expounded on by Kara no Kyoukai. After death, souls just exist in the Origin, waiting to be recycled.
In Mind Game, this is where the souls of the dead are dumped by God (who is a jerkass as God maintains his own all-white-and-bright personal space as an exception).
In Runaways, Alex, and later the Gibborim, end up in an empty whiteness after kicking the bucket. Alex suggests it's a minimalist form of Hell - he tried to earn his way out by advising Molly (who thought he was Gert), but is still trapped.
In Proposition Player, Limbo is a bleak, empty plain shrouded in darkness that serves as a dumping ground for souls who cannot find their way into a proper afterlife (although they can interact and has formed communities); the Christian God was apparently known for ousting other pantheons and dumping any afterlifers that didn't measure up to His standards straight into Limbo. Moloch and Anubis realize that for an up-and-rising deity who isn't too picky (like the protagonist, Andy), Limbo is a veritable goldmine of spiritual collateral. (Basically, the more souls you own, the more powerful you become.) In the end, their new pantheon manages to claim ownership and patronage of the entire population, putting them seveal magnitudes above even God Himself.
However this has proven to be a side effect of being resurrected. Bubbles is killed at one point and brought back. But it has no effect on her as she feels that there's more to life then misery. The sequel. Immortality Relapse, reveals that this dowry outlook can be countered by Antidote X and bringing the resurrected back to their senses. Showing that the "doom and gloom" outlook might be more of an evil driving force then an out and out decision.
Plankton's Eye View has Plankton describing the afterlife as this, a solace from all the bitter failures he experienced when he was still alive. This was soon subverted, however, when a mysterious green cube stood out from the seemingly infinite darkness, multiplied, and eventually revealed that he was actually floating in The Flying Dutchman's ghost ship, ready to be sent to Davy Jones's Locker to be damned forever.
Played with in The Lion King Adventures. While good people go to Heaven/the Great Beyond upon death, this is the fate that awaits evil-doers.
Not shown or even explicitly described as such, but perhaps evoked in Full Metal Jacket:
Private Joker: The dead know only one thing: it is better to be alive.
If the medium is to be believed then this is what befell the murdered husband in Rashomon.
In Life, the Universe and Everything, this is how Arthur Dent experiences death when he hasn't died or even been injured in any way but is just caught unawares when he stumbles into an immersive VR room while it is powering on.
In The Divine Comedy this is how Limbo, the first circle of Hell, is described. An utterly dark land of no pain, no harm... and no hope. All you can hear are the sighs of the virtuous non-christians: trapped because they were virtuous enough to avoid Hell, but since they aren't Catholics they can't go to Heaven (or reach Purgatory and get there eventually). Dante "subverts" this with a city in this wasteland, full of the Light of Human Reason, where all the pre-Christian philosophers and scientists have built a home for themselves. However, while it's nice, it's not Heaven nor can the people there hope to reach it because The Light of Human Reason is not a true substitute for God's divine salvation. Most scholars believe he did this because otherwise, he would have had to send every pre-Christian philosopher to one of the deeper levels.
Inferno, a book by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle as a 20th century update has the protagonist stuck in his own pocket universe of nothingness after death until he finally breaks down and calls out to God to rescue him.
Neverwhere: When asked what death is like, the Marquis de Carabas says "It's very cold, my friend. Very dark and very cold."
Hell in C. S. Lewis' The Great Divorce is a borderline version of this—a bleak "city" which has been created by the minds of the people there, but which is not really substantial. Eventually "night" will fall on the city and even this existence will give way to something still less real. Hell is also "microscopic" compared to heaven—the visitors in heaven are shown to have emerged from a tiny crack in the ground, enlarging as they go.
He also offers a more nightmarish subversion in Perelandra: Weston becomes possessed by Earth's Oyarsa (Satan) and subsequently becomes an animated corpse. Towards the climax, Weston resurfaces, apparently having experienced damnation. His description matches this trope, but Ransom also infers the added twist that the damned all eventually merge with Satan for eternity.
Ransom also comes to doubt Weston's account—it's possible that the demon was simply imitating Weston in an attempt to discourage Ransom. Given that "Weston" refers to Perelandra as "Perelandra" instead of "Venus"...
Another Asimov story has the Last Trump played, and everyone who has died is resurrected. Buildings, clothing, everything but people starts to disintegrate, the landscape is leveling itself out and the stars go out. A character says this is to create Hell: "Visions of hellfire and damnation were very childish. A featureless eternity will be hell for a species that can't occupy itself for a wet weekend." This is pretty much the description of the Jewish version of hell, Gehenna - Asimov himself, of course, was Jewish.
Subverted in his short story Escape!, in which seems to play it straight initially but it turns out that hyperspace travelers experience "non-existence" for the duration of the trip. Why do they experience anything, you ask? The ship computer was fucking with their heads as a joke. Hey, it has the personality of an eight-year-old. Give it a break.
In The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, "todash space" is the void outside the universes. People don't usually go there at death, but they can be trapped there, and the entire multiverse is in danger of collapsing into it. The occasional Eldritch Abomination roams through it eating the unfortunate—or maybe that's better than staying out there forever?
King's short story "The Jaunt" is about a teleportation machine which transports the body instantly from one location to another, but consciousness takes what seems like millions of years to get there. For this reason, anyone who uses it has to be rendered unconscious before teleportation. They found out the hard way by offering a convicted murderer his freedom in exchange for testing it after it killed a lab rat; he managed to say "it's eternity in there" before dying of a heart attack. A man disposed of his wife by pushing her in with no destination; his defense at his murder trial was that she wasn't actually dead, but the jury thought that was actually worse. The Mafia used it as a "Jimmy Hoffa" machine, but their victims had the considerable fortune of already being dead.
In His Dark Materials, The afterlife is a flat, featureless plane where the only thing that breaks up the monotony is random harpy attacks. Will and Lyra arrange for everyone in there to get oblivion instead, which is a far better (in the protagonists' opinions) fate, as it allows the atoms making up a person's ghost to distribute themselves back into the physical world. Oblivion of consciousness, yes, but a roundabout return to life.
Those who fall into the Abyss in the world of the dead experience almost exactly this. Their souls continue to fall into the nothingness for eternity.
The Elven afterlife, the "Halls of Mandos", is described in much these terms in The Silmarillion, though it's usually temporary, more of a holding cell before elves are reincarnated. Except for the really weary elf and the really sinful elf. For Dwarves, though, this is indeed their fate. They remain in the halls, waiting till Doomsday. Humans go to the Timeless Halls of Ilúvatar (God) until doomsday, when all the afterlifes will merge into the New Arda.
Several Terry Pratchett Discworld novels have the dead transported to a featureless desert of black sand, leaving you alone with your beliefs. This may not be a true example, because it's implied that there is an afterlife at the end of the desert. On the other hand, for souls that are too afraid of being alone with their beliefs to cross the desert, this can act as The Nothing After Death. Meanwhile, at least one golem that ended up in this desert has simply laid back and relaxed, finding a nothingness with no work to do a true paradise. It is, however, confirmed that the afterlife contains no pickles or chutneys. There's jam. Jam works.
The Turkey Farm in Kurt Vonnegut's Slapstick. Vonnegut also referred to something similar to this in Slaughterhouse-Five, where the point in time where Billy Pilgrim experiences death is presented as nothing but violet light and a hum.
Peter F. Hamilton's The Night's Dawn Trilogy: Science fiction author Peter F. Hamilton wrote his trilogy around this concept. The souls of the dead are trapped in The Beyond where they can see our world but not touch it; the series tells of what happens when they find a means of crossing back into the real world by possessing the bodies of the living. People soon begin to wonder why all those who return from the dead seem to be evil, or at least morally bankrupt and it's revealed toward the end of the third book that only people who are unwilling to let go of their mortal lives, or believe they are not worthy of an afterlife, are stuck in this non-existance: those who accept the end of their life move on somewhere else.
This concept is explored in Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, on several levels. There is a plane of existence between life and death which is absolutely featureless but reflects the thoughts and memories of those trapped there. As a completely spiritual realm, distance and physicality are irrelevant, so it's possible to converse with those with whom you share a metaphysical connection no matter how far away. The realm acts as a gateway to true death, and it's incredibly rare for anyone to return. (That Simon does is a major plot point.) In addition, the Sithi speak of the concept of Unbeing, which is quite literally a force that seeks to unmake reality, and those consumed by it are Deader than Dead. They fled from it to Osten Ard, but failed to escape its shadow, and the Big Bad Storm King ultimately seeks to bring Unbeing to the entire world in revenge for the destruction of everything he loved in life.
Though there's no direct textual evidence for this, readers of Edgar Allan Poe sometimes suspect that the narrators are speaking from this vantage point, telling the stories of their lives to themselves to try to, in the words of one critic, "try to persuade themselves that they're not dead."
In the Earthsea Trilogy, the land of death is presented as a dark, dry, unchanging place where the dead keep their names, but not their spirit.
In Robert Cormier's novel In the Middle of the Night, a girl dies in an accident and discovers an especially horrible version of this. You don't get any sensory input, and you also can't exactly think (because your brain is dead), but you are still self-aware—and it never ends. (The girl miraculously comes back to life and spends the rest of her life plotting revenge against the person she's Mis-blamed for the accident.)
In the round-robin Naked Came the Manatee, co-authored by Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, Dave Barry and ten other famous Floridian authors, this is what happens to Marion the centenarian ex-environmentalist.
In Tolkien's legendarium, specifically The Silmarillion, his Satan Expy the Dark Lord Morgoth often tries to convince humans that there is nothing beyond the physical world, and "God" (Eru) does not exist, so therefore his followers should worship Morgoth himself. Particularly, he taunts the captive hero Húrin that there is nothing in the void beyond the world, and he knows because he has been there. Even after Morgoth's defeat, his right-hand lieutenant Sauron adamantly denies Eru, and sets up temples for Morgoth-worship. As Tolkien himself pointed out, Word of God on God as it were, this is inherently hypocritical: it is impossible for either Morgoth or Sauron to be a "true atheist", because they are fallen Angels that have literally met and interacted with God (Eru) in the past.
Peter Jackson's live-action adaptation gives Sauron new lines, when he's talking to Frodo when he puts the Ring on at Bree. The lines aren't from Sauron in the book, though they do echo what Morgoth said to Húrin in the Silmarillion: "There is no life in the Void! Only death!"
In Journeys of the Catechist, Etjole Ehomba is killed, and briefly goes where the dead go. He's surrounded by the spirits of others, with whom he can't directly interact. There is no sense of a deity, he notices, and everyone around him seems to wonder what time it is, and then immediately remark that they'd just arrived. Later, after being resurrected, he describes the entire experience as boring.
In Anne Rice's Memnoch the Devil, the eponymous character takes Lestat on a journey through the ages and shows the truth (his version, at least) behind the creation and everything after. After humans gained souls (through evolution, not through something God did, which freaked the angels out), the dead souls ended up trapped in a metaphysical layer above Earth called Sheol. Behind disembodied entities, there was little they could do. Some managed to get back to Earth and mess with people. This is how we got stories of ghosts and spirits. It wasn't until Memnoch found a group who found peace in forgiving their creator (whereas everyone else was bitter) that he managed to convince God to allow human souls to enter Heaven. The first batch who did instantly transformed it into the garden of Eden everyone assumes it to be. Memnoch's constant disagreements with God about the fate of the humans resulted in his banishment, after which God asked him to contemplate creating Gehenna, Hell. Thus Memnoch turned Sheol into Hell in an effort to prove God that humans can be made to forgive God given sufficient "encouragement". Of course, this is less like the Christian version of Hell, which you can never leave, and more like Purgatory.
In Jennifer Crusie's Maybe This Time, when Andie finally screams at a ghost to just "go into the light, dammit," the ghost cries out in anguish, "There is no light!".
Lovecraft's Ex Oblivione. Also the hoped-for afterlife of one tribe in The Quest of Iranon.
In Charles de Lint's "Drink Down the Moon" from Jack of Kinrowan, Jackie is brought into a "void" where she retains full consciousness while losing all sense of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, after being told it is what happens when people die.
Live Action TV
Played with in an episode of the 1960s Batman, believe it or not. In "The Riddling Controversy", the Riddler - who has already come close to crossing the Moral Event Horizon by stealing money intended for starving children - buys a device from a Mad Scientist that the scientist claims causes matter to completely disappear. The Riddler tries out the device on his hat - and once it has disappeared, he tells the scientist "Make it come back now"...only to be told that the technology to reverse the device's effects has not been created yet. So the things - and, potentially, people - that the Riddler causes to disappear are still somewhere, but it's obviously some place no one on Earth can see (and assuming the scientist never completes his research, they will stay in that strange place forever). Delighted with the results, the Riddler threatens to make Gotham City Police Headquarters disappear unless City Hall legalizes all crime in Gotham. When he hears that Commissioner Gordon, Chief O'Hara, and their bomb squad have refused to evacuate the building, the Riddler is completely without remorse: "Let [Gordon] go down with his building."
The eponymous character of Murphy Brown, spends an entire episode asking people about their thoughts on the afterlife after asking herself what she will tell her son when he is old enough to ask where people go where they die. Miles ends up having a a freak-out after speculating that it may be this trope, described in terms much like the ones at the top of the page.
In the episode "They Keep Killing Suzie", after bringing Suzie back, she explains that the afterlife consists of total darkness, with nothing but the footsteps of an ominous creature that lurks within The Rift.
"Dead Man Walking" sort-of subverts this, with Owen saying 'maybe we're just not meant to remember.' That also may have been an effect of the resurrection gauntlet, since Owen experienced the same thing after he was brought back, albeit with a different glove. But since the only person who ever comes back from death without the gauntlet is Jack, and his description of death is just that there's nothing, it's possible that normal death is literally nothing rather than a featureless plane.
The first episode establishes the series' Darker and Edgier cred right away by having a character brought back from the dead for one minute. Asked what he saw, he says "Nothing..." then, with growing horror, "Oh God, there's nothing!" just before he dies for good.
Of course, the person asking him about it is Jack, who can never die.
In Being Human, undead characters tell outsiders that heaven is like your typical Fluffy Cloud Heaven, but confide amongst each other that it's more like a long, dark corridor, where the only other people are "the men with sticks and ropes" who wait at the end.
In the Series 1 finale, Annie (the ghost) realizes she is about to "move on" when a literal door to the afterlife materializes. One of her friends asks her if the door leads to "something good, or... something else?" Annie replies, "I think it's something else."
And in Series 2, after Annie has been dragged through the door against her will, she complains of having to fill out forms.
One episode of Babylon 5 warns telepaths not to linger in a dying person's mind, lest they be pulled into the black void that is death.
Actually, this MAY be a subversion. When it happens on-screen once, we're treated to something that looks halfway between a hyperspace jump and a classic near-death tunnel of light; the "black void" might just be Psi-Corps propaganda to keep psychics from actually seeing it. Or it could simply be that either the living mind can't comprehend what's there, or even that there's nothing for the psychic to "sense" as it exists on a completely different wavelength.
It's mentioned somewhere that Bester used to be a reasonably nice person, but was obsessed with finding out what the dying people experience. He went too far once and came out as a cruel sociopath, having lost some intricate part of his personality in the process.
Similarly, souls have been scientifically proven to exist; there's a race known as the "Soul Hunters" that... Well, guess what their job is when a really important person is near death? We even see the process at least once, this little orb thing collects a cloud of energy just as the person dies, to "prevent their brilliant light from vanishing forever." They apparently are of the belief that the soul just dissipates like any other energy; it's argued (but not confirmed) that the souls continue to exist, just not in such a way the Soul Hunters can determine, i.e. the afterlife.
The Soul Hunters did make a big mistake once, which is the premise of the TV movie Babylon 5: The River of Souls. They sense an entire civilization leaving their bodies. In order to capture all of them, they use an orb large enough to contain so many souls at once. However, as it turns out, they weren't dying, they were all ascending, and aren't too happy about being trapped in a glass orb.
In Star Trek: Voyager, Neelix winds up in this kind of afterlife. Since he was expecting to be reunited with his family, you kinda feel sorry for him...
This episode originally aired one week before Christmas, to top it all off.
Since we don't see what he experiences, it's possible that he experiences no sensations at all during the time he was dead, like unconsciousness, rather than this trope.
Followed up on in the 5th season premiere "Night", in which Voyager is traveling through an area of space without any stars. The Doctor diagnoses Neelix with "Nihiliphobia: the fear of nothingness. Or in Layman's Terms, the fear of...nothingness. If it's any consolation, I can relate to it. I go into a void every time I'm deactivated. Emptiness, complete and utter oblivion. I'll admit, it was unsettling at first—the existential horror of it all..."
Ironically, in an earlier episode, Neelix was trying to make good humor with Tuvok by singing the most cheerful vulcan song he could find:: "Oh starless night, of boundless black..."
This invokes a bit of Fridge Horror, seeing as what we know about the vulcan death ritual of preserving their Katras, it suggests that the Vulcan Race actually COUNTS on the afterlife being this instead of risking simply ceasing to exist.
This seems to be the standard fate of supernatural beings in The Vampire Diaries. To be specific, the souls anyone who died while existing in a supernatural state (i.e. vampire, werewolf, witch, hybrid, etc) goes to a place known simply as the "Other Side". In this state, while one can see and hear the living world around them, they are entirely unable to interact with those who are still alive and are implied to have little to no contact with those also trapped in this situation.
Which actually invokes a LOT of Fridge Horror when you really thinka about it. All those lovable supernatural characters you cheer for and like? All of them are destined to end up in what is essentially And I Must Scream lite.
In the Warehouse 13 episode "Time Will Tell", MacPherson claims to have experienced this between burning to death in a house fire and resurrecting. He's shocked to learn that Artie experienced a more pleasant afterlife following his own temporary death.
Game of Thrones. The Red Priestess Melisandre is shown Beric Dondarrion, a knight-turned-outlaw who has been killed and resurrected six times.
Melisandre: You've been to the other side.
Dondarrion: The other side? There is no 'other side'. I have been to the darkness, my lady.
The subject of the song I Will Follow You Into The Dark by Death Cab for Cutie is the singer reassuring their love that if this is where they end up when they die, he'll follow her when he dies so she won't have to be alone. Word of God says that the "dark" is more metaphorical for "we don't know what happens" than actual darkness, but that still applies.
Most of the colorful depictions of Hell are (appropriately) Word of Dante in Christian tradition. One theological position is that Hell is in fact this trope. That the suffering of Hell comes from its utter isolation, emptiness and separation from God after glimpsing His incredible glory. SeeThe Outer Darkness for more.
Although more of a scholarly thought experiment and never official doctrine, Catholicism had Limbo, which was the portion of the Afterlife for babies who died before they were baptized, virtuous pagans and atheists, and assorted Old Testament figures. On the idea that they never had a proper chance to convert to Christianity thus didn't merit eternal punishment.
Greek Mythology's Hades (More specifically, the Asphodel Meadows) was a lot like this: a bleak, barren place underground with nothing much happening. The only alternatives were Tartarus, a hellish place where those who angered the gods went, and the Elysian Fields, where the heroes of antiquity wound up. Unfortunately for Greeks, you had to be a real bastard or a real saint to get into those, respectively, so it was the barren version for most of them.
Norse Mythology has many places the dead can go after they pass on. All of them have something happening, whether that's training for the End (i.e. Odin's and Freyja's halls), dining with kin (i.e. Helheim), or being tortured for all eternity (i.e. Nidhog's maw or Niflhel). There's even [[Reincarnation within the family line]]. The Nothing After Death in Norse Mythology comes in one of these alternatives; the dead can reside in their graves if they so choose. Sometimes, this means they roam the Earth, but other times, it means that they literally stay in the ground and do nothing.
Irkalla, the Babylonian/Sumerian afterlife described to which everyone— even kings and heroes— exists in dust and darkness, ruled over by the goddess Ereshkigall (sometimes also called Irkalla, the name of her realm) and among the Babylonians, also her consort, the god Nergal. Irkalla appears in the The Descent of Inanna and The Epic of Gilgamesh. In appearance its residents are arguably Cursed with Awesome— they have dark wings and possibly some vampire aspects.
The Sumerians, from whom the epic is thought to originate, would bury their dead with toys, board games, and musical instruments to help pass the time.
Sheol is the earliest Jewish concept of an afterlife, if it can be called an afterlife at all. It is mostly a kind of "nothingness" after death. In English it has been translated variously as "Hell", "the grave", and "the pit". Depending on what life was like it can be a relief from pain but is generally bleak and in itself it is not a place of punishment or reward. It is simply the existence/place to which the all dead go (Job 3:11-19). It somewhat resembles the afterlife of some of the Jews' semitic brethren like the Babylonians. It is "A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without and order, and where the light is as darkness" (Job 10:21). It is a "land of forgetfulness" (Ps. 88:3-12) from which no one ever returns (Job 7:9) and is cut off from God and the world of the living. Sometimes it is said that God's power can reach into Sheol (Ps. 139:8) or that the spirits of the dead can be summoned to the world of the living (1 Sam. 28) but mostly it is indicated that the dead are simply gone forever. They whisper from the dust (Isa. 29:4) and exist as disincarnate "shadows" of their true living selves, an existence that is hardly existing at all. Ideas about this later evolved among some currents within Judaism and in Christianity, which also accepts Jewish scriptures as canon.
One Jewish prayer honors God for "keeping faith with those who sleep in the dust." While this could refer to bodies buried in the ground, which did happen, burials in that part of the world in Biblical times tended to be two-part: an entombment in a re-usable space to allow the flesh to rot away entirely, followed by a second burial in an ossuary, which took up less space. The line could thus refer to the after-life: a bleak place of dust possibly made more bearable because the soul can sleep through it while waiting for resurrection.
In Shinto, death is associated with pollution and the unclean and a general, barren land of the dead. It's not surprising that the ideals of Buddhism were later woven into something of this, giving a more optimistic depiction.
The Dungeons & Dragons setting Eberron has an afterlife plane, Dolurrh, like this; the souls within even fade away eventually. Most religions have to do with avoiding it (the Silver Flame claims that its god created a paradaisical afterlife) or having faith that something comes after it. The sourcebook notes it's not just or unjust, good or evil: it just is.
To make this even bleaker, unlike in most Dungeons & Dragons settings, religions in Eberron are truly based on faith, rather than verifiable fact. In the original version, there was absolutely no evidence the Godsnote besides certain objects of worship such as the Silver Flame or Dreaming Dark, which are verifiably things that actually exist, but are of questionable divinity exist or ever existed — you could even worship a God with an alignment farther from yours than 3.5e would normally allow as a cleric and still be capable of Divine Magic. In 4e, there's no longer this exemption, and the Gods now have Astral Realms... but they've long since deserted them, if they ever actually inhabited them at all.
This is the entirety of Hell in the Old World of Darkness game Demon The Fallen. The ultimate punishment to the fallen angels was to be left in a sensationless, featureless void for all eternity. They made it even worse soon enough. While not quite the Nothing "After Death", since it isn't the afterlife (the fallen didn't die and humans don't go there), it's on the same idea.
In the New World of Darkness, this is what all dead face. While the Underworld isn't exactly featureless, it's so empty and devoid of anything meaningful that it hardly makes a difference. Some who know about this find it kinder merely to destroy the dead and send them into oblivion than to help them pass on... to a world far worse than the one they were clinging to.
The good news is that the Underworld isn't permanent, and can be avoided entirely — it's where ghosts go when they lose all their anchors but still aren't ready to let go of existence. If a ghost in the Underworld does stop trying to cling to existence — for example, because someone completed its Unfinished Business for it — it moves on from the Underworld. The bad news is that no-one is sure where they move on to.
In truth, souls are supposed to return to the Supernal World upon death, thereafter to be reincarnated with no memories. The souls of Mages do this automatically, but others have a more difficult time of it. The Underworld was not part of the original cosmic order, but came into existence when the Abyss did; as the Abyss lay between the normal world and the Supernal Realms, it made contact with the Supernal difficult and usually one-way (souls come from the Supernal World.)
Well, that's what the Mages think. According to Imperial Mysteries, even the archmages have never seen any soul return to the Supernal Realms. Some Mages suspect that some souls go to the Empyrean, and others think that some souls of particularly heinous individuals go to the Lower Depths or maybe the Inferno (some think that they're the same thing). However, no one is really sure.
One of the Ebon Dragon's powers in Exalted can do this to anyone he kills.
The Christopher Durang play Miss Witherspoon had the spirits of people who didn't believe in an afterlife being basically anaesthetized for all eternity. They actually are in the afterlife, but they're not conscious of it, or anything else really.
The Thornton Wilder play Our Town depicts the afterlife in this manner. There is no Heaven. There is no Hell. Every spirit, good and bad, is stuck together, sitting on their tombstone for all eternity. And even though you are given Mental Time Travel powers that let you relive any day of your life, all this does is further drive home to you how much of your life was wasted.
Marle's temporary "death" in Chrono Trigger is described like this, but it's not clear whether it was really death, since she never existed at the time; Chrono Cross later hints that she was in the Tesseract (AKA The Darkness Beyond Time), a place where erased timelines go when they are superseded.
Also, later on in Chrono Trigger, you can find a "Book of Life", opened to a page that reads "All life begins and ends with Nu", a rather silly pun on "Mu" (Nothingness) and made sillier by the fact that there's a Nu standing right next to the book.
("You're curious about what happens after you die, right? Guess what? I know! You're going to find out first-hand before I can finish telling you, though, so I won't bother. I'll give you a hint: you're going to want to pack as much living as you possibly can into the next couple of minutes.")
In Final Fantasy VI, if you die during the opening segment, you see Terra on a black screen, as she basically sums up that she's trapped in a cold, dark nothingness, before offering you the opportunity to load your save.
It is for practically everyone after they die, the only difference is the lead character will be on the screen instead of Terra.
In this page of the Team Fortress 2 supplementary comic Loose Canon, Mr. Blutarch Mann knows there's nothing after death because he is hooked up to a machine that revives him daily.
Blutarch Mann: Every day I'm dead a little longer, Mister Conagher. I have seen the other side. There is nothing there. FIX. THIS. MACHINE.
Kind of an odd example seeing as his father's ghost haunts a shed.
And as of Grave Matters, the trope is subverted completely. Hell exists, and anyone can get there just by digging straight down (though it's a prohibitively expensive project). Most likely so long as their machines could revive them they didn't "count" as really being dead.
In Cataclysm, Sylvanas gets killed after being ambushed in Silverpine. Once ressurected by her Val'kyr, she describes her afterlife as "nothing", citing it as the reason for why The Forsaken need to avoid the Undeath Always Ends trope.
Sylvanas's short story on the official website reveals that after the Lich King's death, she committed suicide and found herself in a void where her soul was being torn apart. Arthas was there, and he had been reduced to the equivalent of a little boy huddling in the corner and crying. Then the val'kyr revived her, forming their bond that comes into play in Silverpine.
The fact that both Arthas and Sylvanas were undead already seems to be the cause of their experience. Many ghosts exist who are able to return from the afterlife or move on without any signs of suffering. Sylvanas' short story even mentions she experienced the true afterlife when she was killed by Arthas. Being torn from it when she was raised as a Banshee is what twisted her into the bitter leader of the Forsaken.
In SaGa Frontier, near the end of Blue's game, you're told that trying to use Gate magic, which normally allows you to teleport between the regions, will result in you being "cast away into the eternal oblivion."
Invoked in Mass Effect 1: when Matriarch Benezia lies dying, she expects to see light, like the millenia old Asari religion promised her, but instead sees and feels nothing.
In The Elder Scrolls series, there are a number of different afterlifes for souls to go to, depending on what gods they worshipped in life. Followers of Sithis go to The Void.
Fallout: New Vegas: Mr.House's dying curse to the Courier if they choose to kill him has him wishing them this.
Invoked in Blazblue by Ragna during his Astral finish:
"There is no Hell. Only Darkness."
Terror Island: Aorist's afterlife is the sit around doing nothing forever variety. Uniquely for something like this, it's blue. It's the infinite blue plane of death.
The main antagonists in Planescape Survival Guide are tied to the Nothing, a force of ultimate destruction that once held sway over all existence, but was defeated by the Eldest, the first God.
In The Gods Of Arr Kelaan, the dead are placed in an endless, flat plain, punctuated only by an impassable chasm until the person's god makes a way to pass the chasm and a custom afterlife on the other side.
The afterlife in It's Walky! looks something like this, with the only point of interest being the other people who are still there. It's suggested that this is either just Purgatory or just the last hurrah before Cessation of Existence; what's certain is that souls don't stay in this state forever.
Irregular Webcomic!: The Infinite Featureless Plane. Though it's more of a transitional phase, and we're never shown the real afterlife.
Looking for Group: The Demiplane of Suck might qualify as this, being naught but empty white space.
Reynaldo The Assassin: Demons go to "The Abyss" when they die. They are, however, allowed to bring one item with them (possibly even a Get out of the Abyss Free Card.
Featured rather ironically (heaven, purgatory and hell are all identical, except that the TV explaining the situation is increasingly cheaper in the worse afterlives) in Fifty Percent Grey.
In the Moral Orel episode Grounded: Orel has a near-death experience where he finds himself floating in nothing, although he ends up in a replica of his church. He's brought back to consciousness, but keeps having NDEs in an attempt to find more.
Played for Laughs in an episode of Dilbert, where the title character dies and discovers the afterlife to literally be a single cubicle in the middle of an empty plain. Later on as a result of the episode's particularly strange plot, he dies again and finds that there are now two cubicles, one of which is occupied by Wally.