Vagueness Is Coming
"What prophecy doesn't have vague, apocryphal signs? Let's see, the usual ones cited are the appearance of Thin Bloods, Caine sightings, doom, gloom, that route."So the plot of your standard fantasy or adventure story needs to keep referencing the story arc or continuing plot, and the heroes need to know there's some sort of threat and it's big, and dangerous, and evil. Not a problem, unless you can't let the heroes, or the audience, know what that threat actually is. Hence we get visions and prophecies and bits of vagueness like "Evil is coming", "The darkness will arrive" or possibly "The End Is Nigh", or some such. The audience is reminded of a coming villain or threat but is never really given a clue what it might be. It could occur once or in every episode. Omens, like strange animals, strange behavior or peculiar weather can also work. When the threat is never made explicit and only the effects are shown, see Take Our Word for It. If the actual threat fails to impress our frightened heroes, see Feet of Clay. Conversely, if the threat (or the character's reactions to it) uproots the existing status quo, see Nothing Is the Same Anymore. Goes beyond Foreshadowing. See also Cryptic Conversation and Omniscient Council of Vagueness. Often You Will Know What to Do. Even if the audience doesn't. Subtrope of Portent of Doom. A Storm Is Coming is a specific subtrope. Related to Arc Words. Not to be confused with Harbinger of Impending Doom.
— Beckett, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
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Anime and Manga
- Some of Tiffa's predictions in After War Gundam X fall under this.
- Berserk: The Skull Knight makes his first appearance after Guts defeats Griffith and leaves the Band of the Hawk and tells Guts that from that moment up until the Eclipse in one year, he and his friends have begun walking toward their doom. Though he does not give any more detail about what the Eclipse actually does or signifies, he doesn't hesitate to tell Guts that when it does go down, horrible things will happen, saying that a storm of death will come and consume the Band of the Hawk which is quite literal when the Eclipse actually does happen — and the chapter where it all starts going down is even called "Storm of Death." A year later, when Griffith reaches his Despair Event Horizon and activates his Crimson Behelit and the Eclipse finally happens, all Guts could think was that he and his comrades were in terrible danger.
- All of the times that Nosferatu Zodd popped in to remind Guts and the Band of the Hawk about his prophecy was doom on a layaway plan.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S gives this as an ability to the Saint Church's knight, Knight Carim, allowing her to write vague poems that apparently predict the future. She can only write them once a year, as well. Lampshaded within the show, with the TSAB's higher-ups refusing to believe her prophecies due to vagueness. The most major instance of this is when she prophesies the "Ship of Law guarding the land" being destroyed. When Section Six and the Ground Forces are subsequently destroyed, they thought that this was what the prophecy meant (and what the heroes were trying to prevent). Until the ancient warship of the Belkans, a Lost Logia, is reconstructed by Jail Scaglietti. The prophecy was pointing to Section Six successfully destroying it.
- The Seven Deadly Sins: A Holy War was prophesied to engulf all of Britannia. However who the Holy War would be against is not stated. The King of Lyonesse tried to prevent the war by asking his knights to lay down their swords. The Holy Knights instead decided to prevent the war by overthrowing the king and forcing the various civilians to make preparations for it.
- Since the start of the Grand Magic Games in Fairy Tail, the story constantly tries to foreshadow some terrible, apocalyptic event that would happen the day after the Games end. A few clues are given to what might happen (Lucy will in some way be taken out from the plot and Levy will take over her narrator role, several people will die, the knight Arcadios is thinking out the so-called Eclipse Plan which will involve a Stellar Spirit Mage that will be either Yukino or Lucy, and there has been a mention of the Dragon King Feast where humans, dragons and demons will meet), but most of it is shaded in mystery until the end of the arc.
- Marvel Comics' Onslaught was introduced without anybody knowing who Onslaught was, including its creator. Just Juggernaut... falling from the sky, and when asked who/what happened all he could say was "Onslaught."
- In the Final Destination comics (as well as some of the films) the words "it's coming", and "it's here" can be seen at various points.
- In the issues before The Death of Superman started, there would be a page of a mysterious fist pounding at a wall, proclaiming "Doomsday is Coming" until it busted through, in which it went "Doomsday is Here!"
- This trope is invoked by Destiny in one issue of The Sandman, describing his encounter with the Three Fates: "Their comments were, unsurprisingly, oracular and ambiguous."
- Parodied in Asterix and the Soothsayer. It is about a soothsayer who predicts the vague things that each one wants to hear. That the storm will end and then there will be a good weather, that Obelix would find a girl, that Cacofonix's voice would become a music trend, that the Roman centurion will be promoted... stop. The Roman centurion tells him that all Gaul soothsayers must be taken to prison, so he cravenly admits he is a fraud who cheats people. But the centurion is so arrogant that he is damn sure that he would be promoted, and so keeps treating him as a real soothsayer. He even warned the Gaul village (under Roman orders) that the air would be polluted, and that they had to escape; Getafix played a joke on him by actually polluting the air on purpose.
- In Grant Morrison's JLA run, the various New Gods the JLA run into say something along the lines of "IT'S COMING!" to foreshadow the arrival of ancient god-weapon Mageddon.
- In 52, Veronica Cale spends a panel foreshadowing Final Crisis with a vague, oracular monologue.
- Infinite Crisis was set up for years by DC, and during the course of this long game, various characters would make mysterious speeches about "a time of great darkness" and other such variations on that theme.
- Various characters in Fables get thoroughly fed up with this; the ghost of Colin Piggy aka the avatar of Hope appears to both Snow White and Rose Red to warn them things are about to get tougher and they need to brace themselves. Both of them repeatedly ask for useful details, but the vision says it can never stay for very long and always disappears before giving any information that would actually help them prepare a plan. The discovery of what the vision really is makes this a Justified Trope; Hope isn't about reason or making strategies to survive, its province is the simple refusal to lie down and give up the fight, so it makes sense that it only tells people to summon their strength.
- Ozma the witch gives young Ambrose Wolf a prophecy about his siblings, which he relays to Snow and Bigby. The prophecy is actually quite detailed, but it doesn't give anyone any information on how to avoid it. As of the end of Cubs in Toyland certain parts of it have already come true.
- The Forsworn Knight shouts prophecies that are vague even by the standards of this trope (i.e. "The time is coming!" and nothing more than that), and Bufkin the monkey gets thoroughly fed up with it and directly lampshades the fact that he never says anything useful and never does anything beyond sound ominous.
- During Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man, the yellow aliens (who first gave him his powers) gave him these words of warning: "Terrible times are coming. Be strong. Be careful." It's unclear whether they're referring to the Second Crisis (the incident with the Psycho Pirate, Zero Hour, or Infinite Crisis) which he saw an image of beforehand or the events following his family's murder.
- From Loki: Agent of Asgard comes, together with general warnings to be brave/strong/careful/etc. and remember, this piece of oddity: "That which is called ego-death is coming to you.", which was given to a time travelling Doctor Doom by Evil!Future!Loki's skull "friend", and Loki themself by one of Odin's crows.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Throughout the first half of Vol 2, there are several mentions of "the death of the future-tense", which is apparently serious enough to bring time-travellers back to 2007 to try and kill the Guardians. It turns out this means the appearance of The Magus causing every single timeline to turn into one where he and the Church of Universal Truth rule the universe.
- According to Professor Sinatra from My Immortal, "drak times are near". The threat alluded to is obvious - Voldermort and "Da Death Dealers" -, but it sounds overly dramatic for what amounts to a petty thug who goes around begging Enoby to kill Harry with a knife. Also manages to be shockingly accurate, since they do take over Hogwarts in the final chapters.
- The Firefly / Doctor Who crossover "The Man with No Name" has this, with the way River often talks . In this case, she predicts the Doctor at the end of the first chapter. By one of his scary names.
- Azael in The Foreteller seems to only make prophecies using these
Azael: I see three adventures, coming in due time, they are the subject of this rhyme. Before you think “Can he read my mind?” you, large one, are not the last of your kind. Though they are few and scattered away, you will meet them, soon, someday. However, this discovery comes at a price, as you must fight demons, born from ice. Listen to this second vision, in this you will all be found. Fighting the White Death in the forest underground. In the final vision that I see, the Earth will crack asunder, sending you out at sea. You will meet many things that, in the oceans prowl, in particular a cutthroat crew of pirates, foul. However you will be saved, as you should, by one of their number, like you, a villain turned good. That is all that I see, these visions are what they are, do not blame me.
- President P. Resident in Twillight Sparkle's awesome adventure is bad at describing what Enemy Boss Leader's weapon will do.
P. Resident: And he has an evil weapon that will do bad things to people if you don’t stop him.
- A Future of Friendship, A History of Hate: The heralds each seek out their counterpart among the Mane Six just before Ruinate's escape from his prison to creepily give a warning/prophecy about it. The girls react with various degrees of fear and confusion.
- In the Pony POV Series, the Dark World Series has this happen starting with the Storming the Castle Arc: It starts with the Valeyard's Final Speech implying that Discord isn't the only Big Bad they need to worry about. Then Aquamarine, a Sea Pony they meet, warns of an Alicorn Witch coming to destroy the world, and after helping defeat Odyne!Cruelty, Fluttershy's ghost warns them that they're "Apple Pie's hamster" (Apple Pie's pet hamster is named Groundhog). These are all warnings about the true Big Bad, Nightmare Eclipse/Paradox.
Princess Luna: We wondered which of our siblings or potential siblings would make such an oddly specific prophecy.
- Comically subverted with the prophecy Princess Thalia (Pinkie's potential future Alicorn incarnation) gave her potential followers, the Love Cats. It is very specific right down to mentioning that Moth and her fellow reformed Changelings aren't bad guys. It specifically says the Changelings are the bad guys 'except the one who looks like Bon Bon and her friends.'
- In Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles, both Hagrid and Dumbledore repeatedly say that "dark days are coming", but don't offer much explanation.
Film — Animated
- In Watership Down, Fiver's descriptions of his prophetic visions take this form: "I know now… a terrible thing is coming." … "something very bad is about to happen...! It's all around us!" and later, "There's a bad danger coming—" "—It's not good!" (it indeed proves to be very bad). This makes sense, as Fiver is not only a rabbit, but a little kid, and the rabbit language that all the dialogue is being translated from almost certainly has no words to even remotely describe the warren being filled with poison gas.
- This is how the main conflict of The Simpsons Movie is set up. Abe Simpson has a "religious experience" in church, culminating in a strange prophecy that everyone initially dismisses as just a foolish old man's eccentricities. His ravings during the episode are all in the form of riddles, so they sound incomprehensible and aren't taken seriously.
"People of Springfield, heed this warning! A twisted tail! A thousand eyes! TRAPPED FOREVER!"
Film — Live Action
- Occurs at various points throughout The Lord of the Rings films.
- "Darkness crept back into the forests of the world. Rumors grew of a shadow in the east... whispers of a nameless fear." "Smoke rrises from the mountain of Doom. The hour grows late..." "The stars are veiled. Something stirs in the east... a sleepless malice. The eye of the Enemy is moving!" Granted it can be excused, as due to the current times everyone knows what's being talked about.
- In trailers for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the narrator says that "Darkness is coming...", presumably alluding to The Battle of Five Armies and, of course, Sauron and the One Ring.
- Renfield in Bram Stoker's Dracula: "The Maaaster is coming!" (of course the audience know who the Master is, but the unwitting inhabitants of London don't, yet).
- The Living Wake centers around the protagonist's "vague and grave disease".
- The omnipresent thread of the looming Nothing in the first half of The Neverending Story.
- Star Wars
- The Jedi council deals with this in the three prequels. "Dark, his future is..." as Yoda describes it - but evidently not so dark as to interfere.
- In every film there's a least one person who has "…a bad feeling about this."
- Even the subtitle of Episode I, The Phantom Menace, suggests this (it's clear to someone familiar with the original trilogy but otherwise it's played straight).
- Event Horizon - when :Justin temporarily regains consciousness after spending time in vacuum, his contribution to the conversation is "It's coming... the dark..."
- 2010: The Year We Make Contact. Dave Bowman arrives and tells everyone they've got to get their butts in gear and leave within 2 days. Everyone asks what's going to happen, and all Dave bothers saying is "Something wonderful". Perhaps "The monolith is going to transform Jupiter into a sun" would be too hard for folks to understand.
- Bert in Mary Poppins. "Wind's in the east. Mist coming in. Like something is brewing, about to begin. Can't put my finger on what lies in store. But I feel what's to happen, has all happened before."
- Men In Black:
- The disguised alien who James Edwards chases down at the beginning delivers several panicky warnings that "your world is gonna end" and "he's coming!"
Edwards: Yeah, and when he gets here I'll arrest his ass, too.
- Apparently this is something MIB has to handle on a regular basis.
Edwards: He said the world was gonna end.
K: [without a blink] Did he say when?
- The disguised alien who James Edwards chases down at the beginning delivers several panicky warnings that "your world is gonna end" and "he's coming!"
- Parodied in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist about the arrival of the Chosen One:
Master Tang: My friend told me there would be a Chosen One.
Friend: [in flashback] There will be a Chosen One.
Master Tang: Then, he told me of the significance.
Friend: [in flashback] It will be significant.
Master Tang: And then, he killed the dog.
[flashback, the friend gets a tense face, farts and a dog yelps and collapses]
- The trailer for Fantastic Four (2015) went this route.
Victor: You don't know anything about what's coming.
Reed: What is coming?
- Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth series. Over the course of several books Flinx learned of a horrible undefined Ultimate Evil that was sweeping toward Humanx space and would annihilate everything (and everyone) in its path. In Flinx Transcendent he destroyed it.
- The Stormlight Archive has it as its Arc Words: "The sun approaches the horizon. The Everstorm comes. The True Desolation. The Night of Sorrows." Interestingly, while the first seems metaphorical, the Everstorm comes in the climax of Words of Radiance and the Desolations are real events that are much worse. One starts to wonder how terrible the Night of Sorrows will prove...
- "A Storm Is Coming" in Neil Gaiman's American Gods - the storm is mostly metaphorical.
- Legacy of the Force: Luke felt the coming of the man who doesn't exist. Not kidding.
- Zig-Zagging Trope in Watership Down — the prophetic rabbit Fiver foresees disaster for the warren but is unable to coherently explain it. The canny Chief Rabbit does not entirely dismiss the possibility, but he decides that whatever the disaster might be, it will be safer to wait it out. It turns out to be a calamity beyond the ability of rabbits to describe.
- In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "Black Colossus", a terrible storm is combined with other omens.
"Whence came Natohk?" rose the Shemite's vibrant whisper. "Out of the desert on a night when the world was blind and wild with mad clouds driven in frenzied flight across the shuddering stars, and the howling of the wind was mingled with the shrieking of the spirits of the wastes. Vampires were abroad that night, witches rode naked on the wind, and werewolves howled across the wilderness. On a black camel he came, riding like the wind, and an unholy fire played about him; the cloven tracks of the camel glowed in the darkness. When Natohk dismounted before Set's shrine by the oasis of Aphaka, the beast swept into the night and vanished. And I have talked with tribesmen who swore that it suddenly spread gigantic wings and rushed upwards into the clouds, leaving a trail of fire behind it. No man has seen that camel since that night, but a black brutish manlike shape shambles to Natohk's tent and gibbers to him in the blackness before dawn."
- Parodied in Bored of the Rings, where Goodgulf tries to warn Dildo with a series of portentous statements, going from "Evil Ones are afoot in the lands" to "There is a dog in the manger."
- Justified in The Dresden Files- vague statements and misdirection are a way of preventing time paradoxes. For example, the Gatekeeper's extremely vague message about dark magic in Proven Guilty is actually the start of a convoluted Gambit Roulette to get around the fact that if he told the rest of the White Council about the impending vampire attack, they'd evacuate and the attack wouldn't happen, so he couldn't have foreseen it. It also serves to set up events so that Molly isn't executed as a warlock.
- In Harry's internal monologues, he's noting a decreasingly-vague threat in the form of the Black Council. Fridge Logic has that because in the Dresdenverse names have so much power, it's possible that by thinking about and searching for the Black Council, he's defining its essence. It's also possible that they didn't really have their act in gear before. We'll see.
- A Song of Ice and Fire: Double Subversion in the house motto of House Stark: "Winter is coming". In itself, it is perfectly straightforward and not vague at all, only a warning that the cyclic years-long winter will be coming in due time. However, this time, winter includes a mounting potential threat of invasion by the Others and the reanimated zombies of their victims coming down from the North to invade Westeros.
- The prophecies about the 'The Prince that was Promised' and the 'Song of Ice and Fire' fit the trope as well.
- Used many times in the Warrior Cats series. For example, in Midnight, we actually see StarClan receive the vision, but they are incredibly vague about it. A conversation from the first two pages:
Bluestar: A new prophecy has come! A great doom that will change everything has been foretold in the stars.
Oakheart: I have seen this too. There will be doubt, and a great challenge.
Bluestar: Darkness, air, sky, and water will come together and shake the forest to its roots. Nothing will be as it is now, nor as it has been before.
Random cat: A great storm is coming.
Nightstar: Can nothing change what is about to happen? Not even the courage and spirit of the greatest warrior?
Bluestar: The doom will come. But if the Clans meet it like warriors, they may survive.
- And what did all that vagueness refer to? Humans building a housing development in the forest.
- The story of Harry Potter's life. He's given nibbles that there's something terrifying on the horizon - and as a matter of fact a very clear prophecy was given about him… that he isn't told about for five books. There's also the centaurs…"Mars is bright", indeed. Lampshaded by Hagrid, who doesn't have a lot of patience for cryptic centaur speech.
- Mocked by Angela the herbalist in Eldest, the second book of Inheritance Cycle in making a Doomy Dooms of Doom prediction. "Mmm....she's doomed! You're doomed!! They're all doomed! Notice I didn't specify what kind of doom, so no matter what happens, I predicted it. How very WISE of me."
- Explained in the Sword of Truth as a limitation of prophecy and a language barrier of sorts: first of all, there are a lot of variables that the prophet isn't let in on. Secondly, prophets have a very hard time describing the phenomenon to anyone without the gift of prophecy - it would be at least as hard as explaining colors to a person born blind. Adding to the excitement, some prophecies are false, a prophet rarely has a sense of time or place regarding when or where their prophecy will occur, and a prophet rarely has context for a prophecy - he might witness cheering at an execution, and get the wrong impression because he doesn't know that the person being executed was a mass-murderer.
- Justified in Good Omens, which features The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. The Author managed to foresee centuries worth of events, including her own death (for which she planned accordingly), the apocalypse or lack thereof, and the world that came after. The problem is that she saw things well beyond her time, and described them in ways that could rarely be deciphered until after they came to pass. How could one describe the Kennedy assassination in a time when Dallas didn't exist? She also cared more about things effecting her descendents more than general history; she didn't mention Dallas, but the warning about a falling brick on the same date was clearly understood.
- Lampshaded in David Eddings' The Belgariad spinoffs, notably Belgarath the Sorceror, which outright states that all prophets are madmen. Unfortunately, not all madmen are prophets, so many books of alleged prophecy are just plain nonsense - fortunately, as an immortal, Belgarath has enough time to sort it out.
- The first Deptford Mice book includes a scene where the prophet bats outline the main plot of the trilogy, but in a way that's not much practical help to anyone.
- Dave Barry Slept Here:
The only really positive aspect of the situation was that at least the nation was at peace. Yet at that very same moment, across the dark, brooding waters of the Atlantic, there was growing concern. "My God, look at those waters!" people were saying. "They're brooding!" Clearly this did not bode well for the next chapter...
- The Dark Is Rising is named after this trope. Played with, in that while the only description of the Forces of Evil given in the prophecy is "When the dark comes rising," and that's it, the rest of the prophecy lists out, quite succinctly, the forces of Good that shall be mustered against it. The series is then a step-by-step process of attaining the Plot Coupons listed in the prophecy, and bringing together the Six who shall turn the darkness back.
- Kitty Norville: In "Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand" Odysseus Grant keeps giving Kitty vague warnings to stay away from the Band of Tiamat. When she asks for specifics, Grant tells her she wouldn't believe him if he told her. Kitty responds, "I'm a freaking werewolf! Try me!"
- In the second Wings of Fire series, Moon's prophecy- the only hint of an overarching plot- begins:
Something is coming to shake the earth,
Something is coming to scorch the ground...
- Discworld: In a bit about the various timekeeping methods on the Disc, this comes up:
The calendar of the Theocracy of Muntab counts down, not up. No-one knows why, but it might not be a good idea to hang around and find out.
- Lampshaded and made fun of by Zawisza Czarny of Garbów in Andrzej Sapkowski's Narrenturm.
Live Action TV
- In the miniseries version of The Stand, Mother Abagail helpfully informs the heroes: "The Beast is loose in the fields of Bethlehem. The rats are in the corn!" She also says "A Storm Is Coming. His storm!" And "the rats are his."
- Doctor Who:
- In 'The Beast Below', an episode of Doctor Who, there is a creature that everyone refers to only as...The Beast Below.
- Practically all of the Arc Words of the revival of Doctor Who count as a vague threat - "Bad Wolf" (though that turned out to be a good thing), "You have something on your back", "He will knock four times", "The song is ending", "Darkness is coming", "The Pandorica Will Open", "Silence Will Fall", "Tick-Tock, goes the clock".
- "The Fires of Pompeii" is chock-full of this in even more bizarre form than usual, because the characters are ancient Romans being influenced by an alternative timeline to develop psychic powers which they naturally attribute to the gods and accordingly couch in all kinds of Meaningless Meaningful Words. Which is why it's nice when the Doctor eventually gets sick of it.
Pyrovile: We... are... awakening!
The Doctor: Name yourself! Planet of origin, galactic coordinates, species designation according to the universal ratification of the Shadow Proclamation!
Pyrovile: WE... ARE... RISING!!
The Doctor: [imitating it] TELL... ME... YOUR NAME!
- "Silence will fall" is especially terrifying, given the circumstances under which it's revealed. And then we find out it's a bit of a mistranslation; "Silence must fall, when the question is asked".
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Much of the fanfare around the First Evil - "From beneath you, it devours."
- Dawn was anticipated three times in a Dream Sequence: Faith talking about "Little Miss Muffet," and with Faith saying "Little sis is coming" and Buffy responding "I know." And once with Tara saying "be back before Dawn." Note, the first of these was at the end of Season 3. Dawn came around in Season 5. Joss plans way too far ahead.
- The Beast's arrival in season 4 of Angel is foreseen in vague implications of fire and blood. Before that, in season 3, the Nyazian scrolls contain vague forebodings about Angel's child, the return of Holtz, and the imminent destruction of mankind. Angel's crew and Wolfram and Hart repeatedly misinterpret the prophecies to their chagrin.
- The Abaddon gets a few of these in the first series.
- "The twenty-first century is when everything changes." Repeated every few episodes, and in the opening narration.
- From "Children of Earth"; "WE...ARE...COMING!"
- Lost adored this trope. Just about every season finale/season premiere (and quite a few regular episodes) would end with someone saying something along these lines. At least once, it was actually lampshaded—the psychic who advised Claire about her baby warned her that blurriness is a very bad sign in a premonition.
- In Smallville Jor-El tries to get Clark to stop Darkseid's hold on the world, but is so vague about it that Clark thinks he's talking about something else entirely, and stops that instead. Jor-El responds by yelling at him. Well sorry Jor-El, but maybe if you communicated better you wouldn't have this problem. Considering his prior track record...yeah.
- Played dead straight in the 2011-12 season finale of Fringe. After the main action of the episode is wrapped up, one of the Observers appears to say to the hero "They are coming." and the season ends.
- Played for Laughs in Train Man. The main character often says "IT IS COMING...!" on his message-boards.
- In Atlantis the soothsayer tells Jason that he is the subject of a prophecy and vague destiny and doom and fate and other stuff is in his future. He's also The Chosen One, although she doesn't tell Jason that or what exactly he is chosen for. Specifics are rather thin on the ground.
- In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21), Sam says, "I mean, the size of what's coming –- it's bigger than anyone has ever seen. I mean, it's gonna get bad." But, Sam really does not flesh this out further.
- In S10, Death says getting rid of the Mark of Cain will unleash the Darkness. WHAT the Darkness is exactly is completely vague. Even now that the Darkness IS released. It takes the form of an attractive woman, but she doesn't know much of anything, even wondering "who is this 'Death'?" when Dean told her that Death knew about her.
- The entirety of Bob Dylan's famous song "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" (about nuclear armageddon, if you listen closely enough) is made of this trope. Here's an excerpt:
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it.
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it.
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin'.
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin'.
I saw a white ladder all covered with water.
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken.
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children ...
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin'.
I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world ...
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley ...
I met a young child beside a dead pony.
I met a white man who walked a black dog.
I met a young woman whose body was burning.
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow...
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters ...
Where the executioner's face is always well hidden ...
Where black is the color, where none is the number...
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
- Still more ominous is Tom Waits' "Starving in the Belly of the Whale", delivered in his usual cross between Metal Growl and drunken hobo singing:
Don't take my word
Just look skyward
They that dance must pay the fiddler
Sky is dark'ning
Dogs are barking
The caravan moves on
- "Bad Moon Rising": "Hope you have got your things together / Hope you are quite prepared to die. / Looks like we're in for nasty weather / One eye is taken for an eye"
- While the original is pretty upbeat, Rasputina did a pretty ominous-sounding cover version.
- In the lyrics of both "7 Days to the Wolves" by Nightwish and "The Howling" by Within Temptation, time is running out and some wolves/howling things are coming, and… that's about it. Similarly, in "End of All Hope" by Nightwish, this is the end of all hope, because... well, it's the end of all hope. And in Within Temptation's "Stand My Ground", "it" is totally coming and she's going to stand her ground against it; and in "Forsaken", the day has come and there's no time any more, and they are forsaken.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Your Horoscope For Today" is bizarrely specific for all its predictions, but tells Taurus "...The stars predict tomorrow you'll wake up, do a bunch of stuff, and then go back to sleep." In context (most of the other predictions are either threatening or insulting), this was less being ominous and more implying the reader's life is so boring that nothing of note will ever happen.
- The Ravenloft metaplot features a prophecy that alludes to a "Time of Unparalleled Darkness". Very few details are given as to the specifics, other than it sounds bad. Events like the Grand Conjunction, the Grim Harvest, the disappearance of Ruldolph van Richten, and the outright disappearance of several island domains have all been hinted as leading up to this time of climactic badness. Considering the themes already present in the Ravenloft setting as a default, that's saying something.
- The Grand Conjunction itself was one at the time. A prophecy by the Hyskosa, the setting's Nostradamus analogue, laid out six incredibly vague events that, when brought to pass, would lead to the destruction of the entire demiplane. Only interference by Azalin, who had been manipulating events to bring the prophecies about ahead of time and inadvertently juxtaposing the last two verses prevented the Grand Conjunction from taking hold in full. Even so, the turmoil was tremendous, leading to a modified Class 1, with several domains shuffled, lost, destroyed, and discovered, along with a massive Bottomless Pit covering hundreds of square miles in the center of the Core's landmass.
- The three witches of Macbeth only mention "something wicked" once, to introduce the title character now that he's become an evil tyrant, but their "Double, double toil and trouble" speech arguably counts. Shortly after King Duncan's murder, and MacBeth's subsequent coronation, idle soldiers gossip to each other about unnatural and terrifying manifestations in the animal kingdom, like a herd of horses attacking and eating one another (a murderer and usurper on the throne means that the land itself is sick and going mad).
- In BIONICLE, Gaaki's Mask of Clairvoyance gives her visions of the future, and for some reason causes her to speak in extremely vague terms. However, her teammates are occasionally able to decipher her ramblings, e.g. "Seekers of Shadows" means the Dark Hunters.
- In Chapter 2 of Another Code, one of the puzzles you solve reveals the message "Bill will come". You don't get any more info about Bill until Chapter 4, but it's a nice, vague warning about the game's antagonist.
- In the Witch Hunt DLC for Dragon Age: Origins, Morrigan alludes to some great upheaval that is coming to the setting of Thedas, though she specifically avoids sharing any concrete details.
Morrigan: Change is coming to the world. Many fear change and will fight it with every fiber of their being. But sometimes … change is what they need most.
- In Dragon Age II, Flemeth herself hints that Thedas will be undergoing some major turmoil, though in typical fashion for Flemeth, she refuses to say exactly what.
Flemeth: We stand upon the precipice of change. The world fears the inevitable plummet into the abyss. Watch for that moment ...and when it comes, do not hesitate to leap.Hawke: Cheap advice, from a dragon.
- The original Baldur's Gate is full of references by miscellaneous oracles and people in the know to something dark being about to happen in general and looming in the Player Character's destiny in particular. When you're playing a second time and know what it is all about, it's amazing you didn't guess the answer the first time from all the hints.
- The tutorial level of Kingdom Hearts has quite a lot of this. But don't be afraid - the door's not yet open.
- City of Heroes has/had "The Coming Storm", which was introduced in Issue 9 as the background plot justification for Ouroboros (Which lets you travel through time). The plot line was dropped until Issue 19 (that's right, 10 whole issues), where "The Coming Storm" seems to be happening now, with the incursion of the Praetorians.
- The Praetorian invasion may not even have been it. Issue 21 (12 issues later) brings a meteor storm / Shivan invasion that would seem to be the beginning of the "storm", as it ties in with a mission in the Ouroboros introductory arc. As of issue 22 (February 2012), the Dark Astoria arcs somewhat clarify what "the Coming Storm" may be: An alien invasion force known as the "Battalion", of which the Shivans are only part of their force. Naturally, the contact who tells you this admits that they aren't certain of it, however.
- In addition to Ouroboros, the NPC Prometheus who offers semi-tutorial information for the end-game Incarnate system also can be coaxed into revealing non-specific hints as to future events (or confirm your own suspicions about the events occurring in the world). However, to unlock these discussions, you'll have to show completion of certain tasks and trials.
- One of the side missions in Batman: Arkham City ends with Batman receiving one of these, ostensibly as a Sequel Hook.
- Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars: In the few missions before he supposedly dies, Kane is very nearly giddy about the arrival of... something. It's only once it shows up that anybody else, player included, learns that it's aliens. Hostile aliens. He's equally cryptic about what "ascension" is (he's an alien who was exiled onto Earth in prehistoric times and after Vega crashed the ship Kane built to escape the planet in GDI territory, Kane intentionally lured the Scrin onto Earth in order to hijack their wormhole technology instead), and everything else.
- The Wild Hunt in The Witcher games is played for this trope, a mysterious force that Geralt is either chasing or fleeing even though he doesn't even know why. It seems that it's being set up as a major plot element of the inevitable third game.
- The Keepers in Thief are an organization dedicated to interpreting such prophecies, devoting years of study to each of them and maintaining a gigantic library full of materials on them. Garrett (on those rare occasions that he works with them) is notably irritated by how vague the prophecies always are.
- In Final Fantasy XIII-2, both Cocoon and Gran Pulse are prophesied to be doomed, but the exact nature of the calamity remains unclear because time has been twisted and warped so many times that any of a number of things could cause it.
- Destiny is a big-time repeat offender. The Darkness is coming. An ancient power slumbers below. Something dark lies beneath. The shadow rises, we need your light. The dark is strong here.
- Phantasmagoria has the Fortune Teller's message: "Evil will walk once more."
- Tower of God
Yu Han-Sung: Soon a wave strong enough to shake the entire Tower will form.
- And that wave is 25th Baam.
- Lampshaded by this Adventurers! strip.
- In Impure Blood Dark forces are rising.
- In Doodze, there's trouble coming, I just know it.
- In this Penny Arcade, an impending hellnote of a Dungeons & Dragons session incites deathly chills.
- What may be the final years-long mega Story Arc in Sluggy Freelance started with hints that the Web of Fate has an enormous tangle of some sort and is due to break soon, indicating some kind of cataclysmic events in the world, which it reflects. It's since been revealed that this apparently refers to events, seen to be taking place in the future in several parallel dimensions, where almost everything on the surface of the Earth is sent to other random dimensions, also potentially leading to a collapse of the whole dimension from such abuse of portal technology. However, the exact form of the events taking place in the here and now is still unknown.
- Generally averted in Dominic Deegan. All seers are as specific and detailed about their visions as possible. Dominic himself is somewhat dismissive of this trope, quipping that a seer who resorts to this is "disguising his ignorance with cliche mysticism". That said, the comic doesn't completely avoid this trope, using once in a while for some tension.
- In One Punch Man, the great prophet's last prophecy is "the earth is in trouble!" Several A-rank heroes lampshade the utter uselessness of this prophecy.
- From the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, for weeks prior to Dagon beginning his ritual to release the Great Old Ones onto the Earth, every mystic hero (and villain, for that matter) whose name wasn't "Dagon" started receiving the same warning, "They are coming!" The warning showed up in the dialog of TV shows, it would appear in casual conversations with friends, in crossword puzzles, in dreams, and so on. As Dagon's ritual neared completion, the warnings became more and more blatant and obvious until, at one point, a random stranger walked up to Warlock and screamed "THEY ARE COMING!" into his face.
- In the Whateley Universe, Chaka received a rhyming prediction (or series of predictions) from a prognosticator. The entire team has sat down and gone over the poem, and not even Teen Genius Phase can make any sense out of it.
- Violence is coming…
- In the Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 episode "Better Off Red", Sage states something even worse than the Red Sentients is coming and she's building a weapon to try and stop it. A lot of her strange behavior that episode seems to simply be because she's terrified of whatever this evil is to the point she didn't want to tell the group about it and hoped never to face it. The season finale reveals that this new enemy is the Ancient Ones, but nothing more is explained except rather frightening shadowy images of them and the fact they predate the Sentients (who created the multiverse). These facts, along with the fact their name seems to be a Shout-Out to the Old Ones, heavily implies they're in Eldritch Abomination territory.
- Squidbillies mocks this trope on a number of occasions with Granny's Ghost Stories... which invariably come true and the actual menace turns out to be every bit as vague and nonsensical.
- Protoclown's arrival on The Tick was simply described as "It's coming!"
- In the season 3 premiere of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Princess Celestia is signing papers in her throne room when a guard rushes in to inform her "It has returned", causing her to drop everything. "It" turns out to refer to the Crystal Empire.
- Near the end of the Gravity Falls episode "Dreamscaperers", Bill Cipher tells the Pines Twins (and Soos) that "A darkness approaches... a day will come in the future when everything you care about will change. Until then, I'll be watching you! I'LL BE WATCHING YOU..."
"When Gravity Falls and Earth become sky, fear the beast with just one eye."
- And in a flashback from "A Tale of Two Stans", Stanford's assistant Fiddleford makes this rambling after poking his head into teh interdimensional portal.
- Steven Universe
- At the end of "Ocean Gem", Garnet and Pearl muse about what the future will bring after Lapis Lazuli manages to leave Earth.
- In "Catch and Release", the Crystal Gems capture Peridot, who cryptically rambles about the Cluster, a dangerous experiment done by the Homeworld that could spell the end of Earth if it "awakens".
- Xiaolin Showdown: Count the number of times you hear the phrase "a thousand years of darkness". It's pretty much used in place of saying "the world will be destroyed".
- Nostradamus wasn't exactly clear with his predictions.
- The Bible's Book of Revelation can apply to many ages.
- "Prophets" who have predicted the End of the World as We Know It tend to keep things vague so they can update them when their 'prophecy' doesn't pan out.
- In general, clairvoyants, astrologers, tea leaf readers, fortune tellers, cold readers — anyone who claims to be able to talk to the dead, predict the future or glean specific details about a person — will make statements so vague they're meaningless and let the listener fill in the details. This is done because a statement like "You will face hard times, but things will get better" apply to absolutely everyone, so they can always claim to be correct. Which is why, if you ever do actually get a specific prediction, THAT would be the time to start worrying...
- That, or just ignore it like every other insane predication.
- Our brains are wired to make order out of chaos and find patterns in things which have none. Pareidolia is what this is called. So no matter what random line of words you are given, given enough time you can figure out some meaning in it. No matter how vague a psychic's prophecy is, if you put your mind to it you'll figure something out. Psychics argue that if it's helping people handle things in the end, then there's no harm done. Those who have had their money taken and finally realized that they've been fed a load of bull may beg to differ.
- An experiment demonstrating the vagueness of horoscopes has a lot of people given a piece of paper with "their" horoscope written on it. When asked if it applies to them (and invariably it will, being so vague), they're asked to switch it with their neighbour and see if it still applies. When they switch them, they find out that all the horoscopes are identical, and just written so vaguely they apply to everyone in the room.
Hey, while we have your attention, we predict that tomorrow you will do some things, and then some other stuff.