K'tano: Imhotep himself declared your days were numbered.A very basic premise — Alice is doomed, and she knows it. Whether it's due to a prophecy, a curse, a disease or something Time Travel related, it doesn't matter. What matters is that in the near future, she will die, and there is nothing she can do about it. Alternatively, Bob knows that Alice is doomed, but he also knows he can do nothing to save her. Either way, cue misery and angsting. The character may also go through the Five Stages of Grief. Of course, this does not mean that Alice cannot be saved in the end - there just needs to be a period during which it seems like she is doomed. The seeming inevitability of a character's death can be heartbreaking, although if taken too far, it may come across as Deus Angst Machina. It may be physically represented in Death's Hourglass. See also Secretly Dying, Like You Were Dying, Someone Has to Die, The Last Dance, Last Day to Live, I Will Only Slow You Down, Almost Dead Guy, and Whodunnit to Me?. Not to be confused with You Have No Chance to Survive, which is when the antagonist simply says "Your days are numbered!" or something similar, as a threat. Unless Alice is actually doomed, the statement in itself is that, not this.
Col. Jack O'Neill: Well, that's fine. As long as it's a very big number.
Col. Jack O'Neill: Well, that's fine. As long as it's a very big number.
This is possibly a death trope, and it may include spoilers, especially if this isn't revealed until later in the media.
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Anime & Manga
- A huge part of Coach Munakata's character and motivations in Aim for the Ace! are centered on how he has three years to live due to leukemia.
- Attack on Titan: Chapter 88 reveals that Titan Shifters are all subject to what is referred to as "The Curse of Ymir", which gives them thirteen years to live before their body hits it's limit and starts breaking down. It's claimed that Ymir Frisk, the Original Titan, died thirteen years to the day after gaining her powers. This doesn't bode well for Eren and Armin as by best count the former has eight years left, probably even less, while the latter only just gained powers before discovering this.
- At the end of Ayashi no Ceres, it's revealed that Tooya has only a year or two left to live. Both Tooya and Aya know it, hence the scene where Tooya begs Yuuhi to take care of Aya and their baby when he kicks the bucket Though he did add that he's not sure.
- In Boku No Hatsukoi Wo Kimi Ni Sasagu, main character Takuma is expected not to reach adulthood. He may die before he becomes twenty due to a heart disesase he was born with.
- Bokurano. The cast soon learn that this is true for the whole lot of them as Zearth's pilots; a lottery picks out who'll be next, and the time is decided randomly. The main story is arguably to see how each of the characters deal with this knowledge, in light of their own lives.
- In Busou Renkin, when Kazuki becomes a victor he has six weeks before the change becomes permanent. He vows to kill himself before his Superpowered Evil Side becomes permanent.
- In Chrono Crusade, Rosette made a contract with Chrono, a demon, saying that she will give him the ability to use his powers at the cost of her own lifespan. The sign of their contract is a watch Rosette wears around her neck, which counts down the time she has left to the very minute.
- Also, it's revealed in flashbacks that Mary Magdalene had seen visions from her childhood that she would be killed by someone named Chrono. Once she meets him, she's well aware that it means she will soon die by his hand, but willingly leaves with him anyway, believing that You Can't Fight Fate.
- The only power of Oruha in Clover is to know the exact moment she will die. And the readers know too, if they started reading the volumes in order.
- In Death Note each human has an "expiration date" that Shinigami, and humans who've traded half their remaining life for "shinigami eyes", can see. Death Notes cause those whose names are written in them to die sometime before their original appointed time, and when a shinigami does that their victim's remaining time is added to their own, humans aren't so lucky. Though apparently, if a shinigami kills a human who was supposed to cause the death of another human they crumble into dust for breaking the rules and their life is added to the human they saved.
- Dragon Ball:
- After the death of Raditz, the readers/viewers learn that both Kami and Piccolo are aware that they are going to die in the next year, when the other two Saiyains arrive. While Kami doesn't know the course of their deaths, he theorizes that this knowledge might have changed Piccolo's personality and status as a demon, which explains why Piccolo trains Gohan and does show him mercy. And indeed, Piccolo dies by sacrificing himself for Gohan, leading to Kami's death.
- When Krillin meets Grand Elder Guru, the latter reveals he has only a short amount of time to live. He does die because of his old age, but the progress was accelerated by Freeza's action. When the Grand Elder is revived by the Dragon Balls, he only gains the stolen lifespan back. But that's long enough for him to put his affairs in order, appointing his eldest son Tsuno as the new Grand Elder and ensuring that the Namek Dragon Balls would remain functional.
- In recent chapters of the newly revived manga D.N.Angel, Satoshi has told Daisuke that all members of the Hikari family die young, and he believes he's near his own death.
- In Fist of the North Star, Rei is hit with an attack by Raoh that would kill him painfully in three days time. While he's able to rescue Mamiya before his deadline, it seems as though Yuda, a fellow Nanto practitioner who held her captive and whom Rei wished to defeat to avenge her honor, would evade him before he died. Thankfully, Toki was able to give Rei one more day with his medical application of Hokuto Shinken.
- Due to the incredible strain of keeping the family in some sort of order, the heads of the Sohma family in Fruits Basket never live past thirty. That's what, in fact, made Akito's father Akira an Ill Boy... and ultimately killed him. Akito shows signs of illness in the anime and that's her Freudian Excuse, but in the manga her bad health seems to come more from deep seated psychological problems, courtesy of her Manipulative Bitch mother; when she gets better, the signs of illness seem to disappear.
- Alfons Heiderich from the Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa. He knows he's gonna die soon of cancer due to breathing rocket fumes, and he's desperate to finish his project for the rocket in time.
- The 'players' in Future Diary have what is known as a BAD END: When their future-revealing diaries get an entry that reveals when they'll die, death is all but certain to occur at that point. There is a chance to Screw Destiny involved and the main character has managed to do this several times, in no small part due to his Stalker with a Crush's device, which gives fine-detail information about the how as regards to him.
- Also, it turns out that the reason for the game is that the god of that world's days are numbered, and the world will end if that happens before he finds a successor. Why that issue needs to be solved with a no holds barred Battle Royale is anyone's guess, but God Is Evil in this series.
- Yuno (for reasons unrelated to her health). Her days are numbered because she essentially volunteers to die at the game's end so that Yuki can become a god.
- Grave of the Fireflies has a scene in which Seita and Setsuko, the brother and sister who serve as protagonists, capture a large number of fireflies and keep them nearby overnight. The next morning, all the fireflies are dead. Given the number of people who are killed by bombs or starvation in the movie, as well as its connection to the title, this scene is obviously meant to represent something beyond dead insects.
- Motorball champion Jashugan in Gunnm. The modifications that make him the elite athlete/fighter that he is are killing him, but he'd rather go down defending his title than retiring.
- The premise of Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit is that anytime at all, anyone between the age of 18 and 24 might get their "death papers", informing them that they have 24 hours left to live.
- In Inuyasha, Miroku's Wind Tunnel is a curse inherited from his father which dooms him to an early death unless the source of the original curse, Naraku, is killed. After an incident in which he absorbs massive amounts of toxic miasma trying to take Naraku out so that Kohaku won't have to be sacrificed, the time frame of Miroku's impending death moves up from "sometime in the nebulous future" to "any day now." When Naraku is defeated, said Wind Tunnel disappears.
- Macross Frontier has this come to Sheryl Nome late in the series, and it's heartbreaking, especially how it ties into Break the Cutie and Break the Haughty. Luckily for her, while Ranka can't get rid of the infection, she manages to move it to a far less lethal place in Sheryl's body and saves her life..
- The conceit of Mahoromatic, where the protagonist is a gynoid with limited battery life remaining. Each segment of the anime and manga ends with how many days she has left to live.
- In Mobile Fighter G Gundam, the siblings from Neo Mexico Gina and Chico Rodriguez already know that Ill Girl Gina's Soap Opera Disease is incurable and that she's almost done with her life. Chico becomes the Neo-Mexican fighter not to get a miracle cure, but to bring her to Earth and give her a chance to die peacefully. Thanks to Domon and Rain, they get it.
- Yoite in Nabari no Ou uses a dangerous jutsu called Kira which essentially kills his targets using his own life force as bullets. As a result, he's dying by inches throughout the series, since every time he uses his power he loses a bit of his life that he can't get back. This is a source of non-stop anguish.
- One Piece:
- A later revealed part of the back story of Gold Roger is that he had contracted an incurable terminal illness that gave him a limited time remaining to live. Being a badass, he decided that, if he was going to die anyway, he might as well conquer the Grand Line first. He does, making him the only person thus far to manage it. It's also the reason the Marines were able to capture and subsequently execute him, as Roger turned himself in as part of a Thanatos Gambit.
- It was revealed that Trafalgar Law did not have much longer to live when he asked to join the Donquixote pirates as a child. The only reason he's managed to survive to the current timeline was because of the actions of Doflamingo's kindhearted brother Rocinante/Corazon.
- Xerxes Break in Pandora Hearts. His body is slowly breaking down from the strain of being Mad Hatter's contractor. Mostly because it's the second time he's been a contractor. The first time was an illegal contract.
- In Plastic Memories, Giftia can only be active for 81920 hours (about 9 years). According to the SAI Corporation, they lose their personalities and memories when they reach their expiration date, effectively "killing" whatever personality the android had up to that point.
- Ashitaka spends most of Princess Mononoke with a curse on his arm that is slowly spreading until it will kill him. When the Forest Spirit gets its head back, Ashitaka, San and the villagers with leprosy are cured.
- The Reveal of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, that being that the Soul Gems borne by each Magical Girl are darkening over time due to use of their magic and negative emotions like sadness and despair. Though cleansing Soul Gems is possible through the use of the Grief Seeds left by the monsters that they kill, it is only a matter of time before the Gem darkens completely, turning into a Grief Seed and turning the Magical Girl into one of the very monsters that she and the others fight. No Magical Girl can escape this fate, and there's no way to change the rule, well, except one.
- With Power Degeneration being rampant in Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, various characters are dying for different reasons and have all gracefully accepted their inevitable deaths. By the end, Ken, at least, has a temporary cure as long as the doctor who can provide it remains alive, but despite a few hints of hope, there's no way to save the the Ushio brothers.
- Yami No Purple Eyes reveals that humans with the ability to turn into an animal form tend to not live very long. Rinko's mother died early on, said to be because she carried the gene with this ability.
- A cicada yokai in Yo-kai Watch believes he only has a week to live and tries to extend his life. After finding out it's a moot point he tries to make the best of what little time he has left... However being a yokai he is already dead and he just passes out exhausted after his timer is up, because he spent so much time trying to have fun and didn't sleep much.
- Your Lie in April:
- Kouse's mother Saki realized she didn't have much time left in her life due to her illness. Because of that she taught Kousei as much as she could about how to play piano accurately according to the music score, giving him the nickname "Human Metronome". She did this with the hope that Kousei would be able to make an income and have a decent life with his piano playing after she was dead. Her plan backfires horribly after Kousei gets fed up with her abuse and harsh critique. She died shortly afterwards, leaving Kousei dealing with trauma that made him unable to hear his own piano playing at the start of the series.
- After she saw her parents crying in the hospital waiting room one night, Kaori realized she didn't have much time left in her life, so she decided to live a full and happy life before passing away. Then, she told the titular lie about liking Watari, for the sake of approaching Kousei, the guy that become her reason to become violinist and also to help Kousei overcome his trauma so that he could return to the music world once again and continue his journey as a musician.
- This is the basis for All-Star Superman. With only a year to live due to solar radiation poisoning, Superman decides to get his last few odds and ends in order, finish off those last few bad guys, finally open up fully to Lois and maybe give Lex Luthor one last thrashing.
- This is part of the plot of Young Liars. In the first chapter, the reader learns that Sadie, one of the main characters, survives a gunshot wound to the head, but is told by the doctor that sooner or later, she will die due to the bullet slowly migrating through the skull.
- Slightly subverted in Transmetropolitan. Spider Jerusalem learns that his mind is decaying as a result of a buildup of a certain dangerous nanotechnology in his brain—the effects are similar to Alzheimer's Disease. He is given an amount of time before he degenerates to a state of helplessness, but instead of wallowing in misery or angst, he takes a moment to feel the fear and grief, then he collects himself and tells his assistants that... well:
Channon: Spider... what're you going to do? You might not be able to write a year from now. Or anything.Spider: *magnificent bastard grin* So we've got a deadline. We can do deadlines.
- And in a final subversion he turns out to be part of the one percent of victims to recover, though he keeps this a secret.
- This is the fundamental concept of Strikeforce: Morituri, where the heroes gain super-powers (to fight off an Alien Invasion) via a process that kills them inside of a year. Notably highlighted when they are reprimanded for attacking the aliens without authorization; in response, Ruth "Toxyn" Mastorakis administers a poison to her teammates, then explains it as the desperation the Morituri feel every moment they are kept away from active duty.
- Once perpetrated on X-Man - essentially, there was something in his genes that would lead to his death in the near-future. Warren Ellis, who wrote subsequent issues of the comic, referred to it as the "Dead At 21 TV Plot Engine" and advocated getting rid of it as fast as possible.
- The Batman Dailies once featured a story about a man with 10 days left to live. Oh, and he was getting married when he found out about it.
- The surprisingly good 1 Month 2 Live. A Marvel Comics story set during the Heroic Age company-wide event. An ordinary man is exposed to toxic chemicals a la Daredevil. While he does gain powers, he also gains terminal cancer and the prognosis in the title. The book then becomes the story of the man and his family desperately trying to find a cure.
- The main plot hook of The Sculptor. 200 days.
- Shakara: Shakara is already dying because he's infected with the Red Death, the same disease that wiped out its creators and whose destruction by their enemies he is sworn to avenge. In the last issues this becomes a Race Against the Clock as Shakara tries to stop the Big Bad from destroying all reality before he expires.
- This is played with Kill la Kill AU,Room 002108, we had this initially with Ryuuko, when she was ill with an unknown illness the which she was hospitalized for tests. According to Rei and from what the readers could observe, if she wasn't taken to be treated abroad, then she wouldn't have lived past her ninth birthday, especially when the illness turned septicemic and would have caused her organs to fail.
- In It's not the Raptor DNA, Elise's sister was born with a weak skeleton that couldn't have supported her past a certain age. The sad part was that even if she had gotten help, all they could do was keep her alive and prolong her suffering.
- The Fanfic Endless Numbered Days  true to its title in relation to Satsuki's lung cancer and the disease later on hits terminal.
- Girls und Panzer fanfic Twilight of Life  is about Nonna who learns by a classmate that she will die the next evening at sunset, and spends her last moments with Katyusha.
- A then Secretly Dying Ill Girl Satsuki in Paper Cranes had heart failure and was actually supposed to die some time in May (presumably before, if not after, her birthday) but instead lived to January 10th, the day she died, opting to spend her final months with Ryuuko.
- Bill Kraus in And the Band Played On discovers he has AIDS.
- The replicants in Blade Runner have returned to Earth to find away to extend their four-year lifespan, but it is in vain.
- The end of the second Death Note movie, and the L spinoff movie, relies on this. L managed to write his own name in the Death Note, which gives him exactly 23 days of life but guarantees he can't be killed (even by having his name written in another Death Note) before that. He uses them to keep investigating and working.
- Connor and Heather in Highlander, and all immortal/mortal love stories since, as the character says: "You are all dying. Twenty years, six months, what's the difference?"
- The main character of Joe Versus the Volcano is told by the doctor that he's got X days to live, and then some rich guy offers to let him live the rest of his life (what little there is) in luxury, if he will, in return, jump into a volcano and thus mollify some volcano-god-type who's been getting in the way of his Tropical Island mining project. This is actually a subversion, since in the end it turns out that the doctor had been bribed by the rich guy, and had lied to Joe so that the guy could get the human sacrifice he needed.
- In the fantasy movie Krull, the cyclopes were beings with two eyes, but they bartered away their second eye to The Beast in order to see the future. The Beast instead tricked them, and the only future they can see is the time of their own death.
- This trope is the premise (and sometimes the whole plot) of many romance movies - examples include Autumn in New York, Sweet November, etc... and the eponymous Love Story.
- Both of the Star-Crossed Lovers in One Way Passage. Dan is being taken from Shanghai to San Francisco by boat, to meet a date with the executioner in San Quentin. He's looking for a chance to escape, but Joan, the beautiful socialite he falls in love with, isn't going to be escaping from her terminal illness.
- Anyone who sees the cursed video tape from The Ring is slated to die in seven days.
- Parodied in Scary Movie 3:
Cindy: Hello?Tabitha: [indistinct] Seven days.Cindy: What? Willie Mays?Tabitha: [indistinct] Seven days.Cindy: Who's gay? Hello?Tabitha: [indistinct] Seven days.Cindy: What?Tabitha: Can you hear me now?Cindy: Kind of.Tabitha: Can you hear me now?Cindy: Yes. Perfect.Tabitha: Seven days.Cindy: Seven days. Oh, my God. I'm gonna die next Monday?Tabitha: Yes. No. Wait. Monday. That would be seven business days. This is seven days starting now.Cindy: So seven days to this very hour? My watch broke. How am I gonna know the exact hour?Tabitha: Forget hours. This day seven days from now.Cindy: But there's a holiday coming up. Do you count the holiday?Tabitha: Well, that depends. What holiday?Cindy: Martin Luther King Day.Tabitha: Then no.Cindy: Why not? Everybody at work is taking it off.Tabitha: Jesus Christ, lady. I'm giving you seven friggin' days. I can come over now and kill the shit out of you if you'd rather have that.
- Shortened to two days by the presumably more impatient, or possibly more merciful, spirit in Chakushin Ari/One Missed Call.
- Stranger Than Fiction may be a movie about a novel. The main character hears the narration: "Little did he know that it would lead to his imminent demise."
- In Nine Days of One Year, a nuclear research scientist absorbs a fatal dose of 800 roentgen of radiation. While sitting in the hospital, he comments on how odd it is that he knows he's about to die, while feeling perfectly fine.
- Bond villain Renard from The World Is Not Enough is a terrorist because he's hopelessly in love with Elektra King and he's got a bullet lodged in his brain that's migrating.
- Drag Me to Hell - Allison is gypsy-cursed to have her soul dragged to hell in three days.
- Night of the Demon - Cult leader Julian Carswell informs Dr. Holden (who is seeking to publicly debunk him) his death will fall on a specific date, thanks to a curse he's cast.
- In Grand Hotel, Otto Kringelein, a meek accountant, after discovering that he has a terminal illness, spends all the money he saved to spend the end of his life in luxury in the eponymous hotel.
- In Ikiru, Kanji Watanabe learns he has fatal stomach cancer, and spends his last days trying to find meaning in his formerly pointless life.
- Frank must deal with a Who Dunnit To Me situation in this way in D.O.A..
- The Shootist is about an aging gunfighter (John Wayne) who discovers he's dying of cancer at the dawn of the 20th century and has only weeks to live. Eerily, after making the film Wayne was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died, making The Shootist his last picture.
- The Black Comedy The End features Burt Reynolds as a man who begins a series of hilariously unsuccessful suicide attempts after discovering he's got a terminal disease.
- The entire premise of Logan's Run, a dystopian future Sci-Fi in which the population issue is addressed by mandating that everyone dies on reaching the age of 30.
- In Time mainly based on this. To put bluntly, everyone is allowed to live until 25 without an issue, but they are only given a year before they die instantly upon the time on their forearm is up. They can add more time in order to live, but there is a cost for living and mind you... time is the currency.
- The Living Wake's main character, K. Roth, begins the film knowing he's going to die at 7:33 PM that night. The film then chronicles the last day of his life.
- The Big Bad of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Viktor Cherevin, is revealed to be dying from his alcoholism and only has a few months left to live.
- In Off The Black, Ray is suffering from an unspecified ailment implied to be the result of his service in Vietnam dropping Agent Orange on the forests.
- Invoked in Dogma. Rufus (played by Chris Rock) reveals that Jesus sent him a message revealing the day he would die. It wound up taking the enjoyment out of his remaining years since he knew they would be up.
- In Lacombe, Lucien, which is about a teenaged boy working for the French Gestapo in June 1944, this hangs thick in the air. The protagonist is too dumb to realize this, even when his girlfriend tells him directly, but most of his fellow collaborators are quite obviously nervous about what's about to happen.
- The plot of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest kicks off when Bootstrap Bill Turner shows up to inform Captain Jack Sparrow that his time is up.
- In Florence Foster Jenkins, Florence knows that she's outlived most people with her chronic illness by over 30 years, and resolves to perform at Carnegie Hall regardless of the risks because she might as well make the most of her time. Her pianist gets quite choked up when he realizes that she carries her will with her at all times.
- A patient storms into a doctor's office: "Doctor, you told me I have a month to live and then you sent me a bill for $1,000! I can't pay that before the end of the month!" The doctor calmly says, "Okay, you have six months to live."
- After a few months of feeling ill, a man visits his doctor for a physical. "I'm afraid I've got some very bad news," the doctor says. "You've probably got six months to live according to the tests." "That's terrible!" says the man. "Isn't there anything I can do?" "Well," the doctor says, scratching his chin, "You could get married and move to Georgia." "What?" the man asks. "And that's supposed to help me?" "No, but it'll be the longest six months of your life."
- A man hasn't been feeling well, so he goes to his doctor for a physical. Afterward, the doctor comes out with the results. "I'm afraid I've got some very bad news," the doctor says. "You're dying, and you don't have much time left." "That's terrible!" says the man. "How long have I got?" "Ten," the doctor says sadly. "Ten?" the man asks. "Ten what? Months? Weeks? What?" The doctor interrupts, looking at his watch. "Nine... Eight..."
- A man gets a call from his doctor who tells him he has bad news and worse news. "What's the bad news?" the man asks. "Based on the tests I've run, you only have twenty four hours to live," the doctor states bluntly. Unsurprisingly, the man is shocked. "Oh dear god, that's horrible!" he utters in disbelief. "What could be worse than that?!" "Well...," the doctor hesitates, "I've been trying to get in touch with you since yesterday."
- The Trope Namer is The Book of Daniel, in a sequence that gives us three common phrases. "The Writing On The Wall" appears to a Babylonian king, specifically the words MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN. This is simply a list of weights and measures, but is translated as a metaphor: "You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting, Your Days Are Numbered, and your kingdom shall be divided by the Medes and the Persians".
- The Bible also makes mention of how short and insignificant human life is in comparison to the rest of the universe. Your measly life of 80 odd years, maybe a hundred if you are lucky? It is likened onto a vapor or smoke, one moment it is there and the next it is gone as it is swept away by the wind. God who has existed since the beginning of the creation of the universe sees all of your lives, all of your struggles and all of your triumphs as if they were blinks of his all-seeing eyes, they end in mere moments. The message is clear, it is humbling that an immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing God cares enough about you that he intervenes in our lives and how important it is that we take advantage of the days that are given to us.
- In The Alchemist by H.P. Lovecraft, each member of the Hereditary Curse dies at the age of 32. It is manually enforced by Charles Le Sorcier. The curse is broken when the last of the line decides to explore the castle, and find the secret alchemist's laboratory.
- It takes Gilgamesh a long time to accept that he has to die, but once he does, life somehow gets better for him.
- Elizabeth aka Beth realizes her days are numbered in Little Women Part Second and spends her last year in a room that her family have turned into a little corner of paradise for her before the inevitable Tear Jerker death scene.
- Played with in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with Dumbledore, though you don't find out until the next book.
- Also with Harry himself.
- Subverted in the Discworld series, where the anthropomorphic personification of Death has an hourglass for every living being on the Disc, counting down accurately to their death... except the wizard Rincewind, whose personal timeline is so messed up at this point that not even Death knows when he'll die.
- Wizards and Witches also have pre-emptive knowledge of when they're going to die, and thus tend to use this knowledge to put their affairs in order. Witches use it to make sure a replacement is found, bequeathing her personal items, making sure a grave is dug, and so on, while Wizards tend to commit credit fraud and drink themselves into a stupor. Both sides like to throw a good last party with their friends/colleagues as well.
- The lifetimers are physical objects, and rather fragile at that. Several are destroyed and/or fall to the ground and smash during the course of Death's fight with Mort, which makes the nearest convenient death occur instantly (although one man who almost dies of falling is caught on a tree branch because one of the other characters catches his lifetimer).
- Also, at least one being on the Disc can ignore lifetimers at will - Death himself. In addition to the old trick of simply not collecting the dead in question, at one point Death turns over Mort's lifetimer, giving him extra time.
Albert: You ain't really allowed to do that.Death: The Hogfather can. The Hogfather gives presents. There's no better present than a future.
- But Death is specifically not supposed to do that, leading to a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming in Hogfather, when it's time for The Little Match Girl to die in a cold, dark alley, and Death is having to spend the night pretending to be the Hogfather.
- Even Death has a lifetimer - it's huge, ornate, and completely empty. Read into this what you will. In all fairness, to extend the metaphor, it's in fairly large print.
- There are a few other beings in the Discworld not subject to death. Any Anthropomorphic Personification (and sometimes heirs to such) is a peer of Death. Also, anything anything above him, like the Auditors, plays by a different set of rules.
- In And Then There Were None, the culprit, Lawrence John Wargrave, was dying anyway. In fact, this trope is the motivation behind the plot: Wargrave was a Hanging Judge Knight Templar who reunited ten Karma Houdinis in the same place and engineered their deaths to punish them for their deeds.
- Most of the cast gets this treatment in The Book Thief. Well, technically all of them are under this trope (see Real Life), since Death is the narrator, but we also know most of them die young.
- Cinderpelt in Warrior Cats is told she's going to die by StarClan as a Secret Test of Character. She passes and is reincarnated as one of the newborn kits she died protecting.
- Taken literally in Animorphs when the last of the Arn, who are extremely adept in biology, is capable of pinpointing to the exact day how long he expects himself to live. As the Animorphs don't trust the Arn, Ax gives the subtle threat that "biology isn't the only factor".
- In "The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin, an 18-year-old girl sneaks onto a space shuttle on a lark. But the ship doesn't have enough fuel to land with her on board. Either she goes out the airlock, voluntarily or otherwise, or the ship will crash. The universe doesn't care which. Published in 1954, the story subverted the usual notion in Golden Age science fiction that all problems could be solved through the power of Science.
- Terry Brooks played with this trope in The Wishsong of Shannara. Bremen informs Allanon that if he continues with the quest the heroes are on, he will not live to see its end. Bremen also informs him what it will be that kills him and why it must happen. Allanon isn't thrilled with this news and, briefly, does try to avoid a confrontation with his future killer. When he accepts his death is inevitable and absolutely necessary, he chooses to Face Death with Dignity thus ensuring that the Cycle of Magic can come to a close once the quest is completed.
- Whomever watches the cursed videotape in The Ring (the original book as well as the movies) will die in seven days unless they figure out how to break the curse. Likewise Samara/Sadako probably figured that being stuck at the bottom of a well boded ill for her chances of survival.
- Orlando Gardiner in Otherland is a teenage boy with progeria, a genetic disease that causes rapid aging and is invariably fatal. He lives his life mainly online, playing a virtual hero while his real body wastes away.
- In Death With Interruptions by José Saramago, Death starts sending purple envelopes to people that arrive one week before their death, to give them some advance notice.
- In City of Ashes, when Clary destroys Valentine's ship with a single mark, an awed Valentine says "Mene mene tekel upharsin", in reference to the Biblical quote above. It's given an Ironic Echo later in City of Glass, when Clary engineers the failure of all his plans as well as his own death. He's sealed her mouth, so she writes "MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN" in the sand at his feet.
- The narrator in Jack Ritchie's "For All the Rude People" is diagnosed with a terminal illness which gives him two or three months to live, if he's lucky. He decides to spend his remaining time disposing of everyone who's ever been exceptionally rude to other people.
- In The Infernal Devices, Jem is addicted to a drug (yin fen) that is slowly killing him. However, to stop taking the drug will also kill him.
- Conversed with Nicolae Carpathia and Buck Williams in the Dramatic Audio version of the Left Behind book Desecration.
Nicolae Carpathia: Your days are numbered, my friend.Buck Williams: As are yours, "my friend".
- Anyone who takes the Mark of the Beast and worships his image in the series is also in the same state.
- Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery Valancy Stirling is 29, unloved, and considered a burden by her wealthier relatives. Experiencing chest pains she sneaks off to see the "other doctor" in town that no-one in the family will have anything to do with because he bluntly told one of her wealthier relatives that her illness was caused by self-involvement and to help others. He examines her but runs out mid exam. The nurse tells Valancy that there has been a horrible accident and the doctor was rushing to attend the injured. A few days later she receives a letter from him giving her less than a year to live. No longer having to worry about being supported by wealthier she rebels first in small ways like back talking, but eventually she runs off to care for an old classmate that is dying of consumption, after having had a baby out of wedlock. From there marries the local rogue. When she finds out the letter was a mistake meant for an older woman named Miss Sterling, she fears her husband will think she tricked him on purpose.
- The final prophecy in Gregor and the Code of Claw refers to the Warrior's death.
- Pact plays with this trope. Initially, the reader is led to believe that Rose, the Distaff Counterpart of the protagonist who is trapped in a mirror world, is going to die eventually because she's a fundamentally unstable copy of Blake, who will eventually degrade and vanish. However, it turns out that it's actually Blake whose days are numbered-he's fated to die, and when he does Rose will be able to take his place in the real world.
- In Robert Heinlein's short story Life Line, someone invents a machine that can tell you exactly what that number is. The life-insurance companies are not amused.
- Occurs to the male protagonists of Hammerjack and its sequel Prodigal. Cray Alden's body is being gradually but irreversibly transformed due to being infected with Ascension-grade Flash, and Nathan Straka is forced to administer himself a massive drug overdose that prevents his brain implant from being hacked but which will be fatal within days.
- Played with in the Belisarius Series:
- When Eon is mortally wounded, he knows that he will be dead in two weeks
- Belisarius and Justanian know that Theodora will die from cancer in her thirties. They decide not to tell her.
- Belisarius tells Narses that his days are numbered. Subverted because it's a big number: 30+ years.
- In The Nekropolis Archives novel Nekropolis, the preservation spells which sustain zombie protagonist Matthew Richter's body are beginning to fail, leaving him with only a few days left before he rots away.
- In End of Watch, Bill Hodges learns that he has late-stage pancreatic cancer that has metastasized to his liver, and is given only a year or two at best. As the book progresses he is in increasing pain, to the point that it's a struggle for him to confront the villain in the climax. He does survive to the end of the main story but dies in the epilogue, only eight months later.
Live Action TV
- Early in the second season of 24, George Mason is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation and is told he has a day or so to live. Twelve episodes/hours later, he takes Jack's place in making a Heroic Sacrifice.
- The plot gets reused in season seven when Jack is infected by the terrorists' weapon and will die within hours, which means he has to bring the villains to justice from the sidelines (he's weakened health could make him a liability on the field) and also try to make peace with himself in the remaining time he has left. He's the main character, so he gets a last minute save by a miracle cure at the end of the season.
- Babylon 5: After dying in a Heroic Sacrifice and being brought back by a Sufficiently Advanced Alien, Sheridan is given twenty years to live, implied to be a side-effect of his artificial restoration.
- The premise of Breaking Bad is that after a chemistry teacher learns that he has lung cancer, he starts cooking crystal meth to secure his family's financial future before he dies.
- Joked with in Stargate SG-1, when one of the Goa'uld System Lords tells Jack O'Neill this.
System Lord: "Your days are numbered."Jack: "That's okay. As long as it's a really big number."
- A minor character in season seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had future-seeing powers and knew exactly when she was going to die (a few days from when she was introduced, at age 16). A whole episode revolved around Buffy and the gang trying to protect her while convincing her that she might live. They were wrong.
- Buffy herself had the prophecy in the Season One finale. She died, but it didn't stick.
- Used as the basis for a second season episode where a friend from Buffy's past is dying of a brain tumor, so he arranges a deal with Spike that if he can turn her over to him Spike will in turn make him a vampire, as he would rather be immortal even if it means becoming evil than eventually becoming a withered husk. Buffy escapes, but since he technically lived up to his part of the bargain Spike still turns him, only for Buffy to dust him moments after he reawakens.
- The main premise of the obscure MTV series Dead At 21, in which the fugitive victim of a government experiment has one year to keep intelligence-boosting microchips from burning out his brain.
- In Dead Like Me everyone is predestined to die at an appointed time, if the Grim Reaper assigned to collect their soul intervenes to prevent their death their soul rots until taken to the afterlife as it should have been, as George finds out with her first reap. And it turns out that refusing to pick up the sticky note with the reap's name and time doesn't help either as her second one ends up trapped in his dead body while being autopsied.
- Doctor Who:
- The Doctor's tenth incarnation got a lot more warning about his impending death than the previous ones, thanks to the "knock four times" prophecy.
- The Fourth also got a preview in the form of The Watcher.
- On the other side of this trope, the Sixth Doctor spends about an episode of "The Two Doctors" taking unnecessary risks and generally moping about when he believes he is about to be erased from existence due to a time paradox of some sort.
- Eleven was told this in the 2011 series, with the added complication of his companions watching his future self being killed. He got out of it, naturally, but decided to let much of the universe think he hadn't, as his Memetic Badass reputation was becoming more of a hindrance than help.
- Eleven had already discovered his prophecized death on Trenzalore for which his previous death escape was intended to stop from happening. Once he arrived on Trenzalore and figured out where he was, he made no attempt to run away and lived out his final 900 years there protecting the planet from all his enemies. Fortunately, altering his own past to save the Time Lords instead of destroying them allowed them to send him a new regeneration cycle.
- Played straight, with a literal timer counting the days, in A Christmas Carol.
- From FlashForward (2009), Demetri didn't have a flash forward, making him fear that he won't live up until those six months.
- Played for Laughs in Friends when Phoebe's psychic friend tells her she will die in three days, making Phoebe distressed and trying to do everything she can to enjoy her last few days alive. Then it turns out the psychic read her cards wrong and she was the one who was supposed to die instead.
- The plot of the first two series of GARO. In series one, Kaoru is covered in the blood of a Horror, and will die within 100 days. In series two, all Makai Knights in the show are branded with a cursed seal that is slowly killing them.
- In Season 4 of Fringe, September, an Observer, appears from the future when he gets shot by Jessica he tells Olivia that, "in every possible outcome you have to die" when she is waiting for Lincoln and Peter to return from the other side. In the season finale she is shot and killed by Walter to prevent the collapse of both Universes, however, she is resurrected by the Cortexiphan in her system (debatable fulfillment of September's prophecy).
- In the Heroes episode "Seven Minutes to Midnight", a waitress named Charlie is murdered in the diner in which she worked. In a later episode in that season, "Six Months Ago", Hiro travels back in time to prevent Charlie's death, only to find out that she has a blood clot in her brain that will kill her soon, no matter what. And then, in a surprising twist in the FAR later "Once Upon a Time in Texas", Hiro returns to the past again, crosses his own timeline, and saves her and removes the clot in a particularly risky trade by effectively telling still morally-confused Sylar that he is destined to be a villain. Hiro ends up telling him that by the time he's come back, Sylar had already died alone. He managed to prevent Charlie's doom and (unknowingly mis)inform Sylar of his own.
- Used in Highlander, when the immortal Methos falls in love with terminally ill Alexa Bond and tries to cure her by finding the Methuselah stone.
- Kamen Rider:
- Yui in Kamen Rider Ryuki is fated to disappear on her 20th birthday.
- The Orphenochs in Kamen Rider Faiz are doomed to short lives, including the main hero/eponymous Rider, Takumi. At the end of the show the Orphenoch King emerges, who can render them immune to the degredation that will kill them, but the cost is permanently destroying the last shred of their humanity. While Takumi and his allies defeat him, the King is left comatose, thus there being no resolution to the conflict nor the issue of the Oprhenoch's fated death, no experimentation tried at extending their lives worked, and there were many Orphenochs who opposed such due to the abuses of power present among the race. It is heavily implied Takumi dies in the last scene in the series.
- During the events of the Kamen Rider #4 netmovies, it is confirmed that Takumi DID in fact die in the last scene of Faiz. This is told to us by the Kaido/the Snake Orphenoch (an old acquaintance of Takumi) who survived as he didn't change into his Orphenoch form for the last decade. This reveal is considered problematic, as Takumi as Faiz has appeared in a few preceeding crossover events. However, the last significant one, kamen Rider Taisen, retconned significant events from Faiz's series, and was a near-universally derided. (the writer of the 'hero taisen' films have been criticized as knowing nothing about the franchise he has not himself written) Thus, many take Yongou's events as correcting the timeline after it had been screwed up, as it ends with Faiz's timeline restored to how it was before a lot of these crossovers, and at the very least the movies Kamen Rider Taisen and Super Hero Taisen GP (where Takumi was also present) being stripped from continuity in their entirety. This has been a widely applauded turn of events.
- Akira Date in Kamen Rider OOO has limited time to live due to a bullet lodged in his brain, although he eventually recovers after leaving to have surgery.
- Charlie and Locke from Lost both get in this situation, albeit differently. Charlie nearly all of Season 3 with the knowledge that he's doomed due to Desmond's prophetic visions, while John Locke is explicitly told by Richard that he's going to have to die (which we already knew he was dead, as of the end of season 4, which is one of the mysteries of season 5. Locke is resurrected. Except he isn't.
- Mahou Sentai Magiranger had the Hades Beast Skeleton who would curse its victims to vanish after one week. Later, after Big Bad N Ma fully revives, we are told that there would only be three days left before he wiped out all life in existence.
- In Mirai Sentai Timeranger, Ayase is terminally ill with "Osiris Syndrome" and has about a year left to live. Due to changes in the timeline, he is able to be cured at the end of the series.
- In Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, Burai has a limited time to live determined by a green candle, and has to stay inside a "Lapseless Chamber" to prevent it from burning out. Turns out this is because he died before due to a cave-in and could only be revived with a limited lifespan.
- In the NCIS episode "Dead Man Walking," Ziva becomes very close to Lt. Roy Sanders while he is dying of radiation poisoning, causing her and Jenny considerable distress.
- One Liter Of Tears has the protagonist Aya dying of Spino Cerebellar Ataxia.
- The Prime Minister And I: Da-jung's father has both Alzheimer's and cancer, and is slated to die in six months.
- Dean on Supernatural sold his soul to a demon in exchange for Sam returning to life and was given only one year until the contract came up and he died.
- In Nine: Nine Time Travels, a Korean Drama, Sun-woo has a limited amount of time to defeat the man who killed his father and ruined his family, because Sun-woo has brain cancer and about six months left to live. Luckily, he has some magic incense sticks that allow him to travel through time.
- Sledge Hammer! goes through this when as the result of mistaken identity, he is dosed with a poison that will kill him in twenty-four hours. Naturally he finds the antidote at the last second, but Trunk and the rest are convinced this is it for him.
- Earth, and everyone on it, has just 34 days left in You, Me And The Apocalypse due to an imminent comet collision.
- Midsomer Murders has an episode named Second Sight involving people with, well, second sight. One of them is firmly established to genuinely have it (consistently and repeatedly knowing things he should not have been able to know in advance), and turns out to have turned into a recluse by looking as far ahead as he could. While he didn't get the exact date he did get a lot of details about the circumstances around that as far ahead — almost being run over by someone looking like Barnaby a few days prior, a terrible storm, lying in the door to the church, etc — which makes him understandably rather shaken when he almost gets run over by Barnaby. Though ultimately it turns out he got one crucial detail wrong. Everything happened exactly as he'd foreseen up to and including lying in front door to the church... only he wasn't dead, just knocked out. He didn't even lose his predictive powers after it.
- In The Expanse's first season finale, Jim and Miller unwittingly step into a quarantine room during a bioweapon test and are hit by a gamma radiation sterilization beam, giving them acute - and terminal - radiation sickness. When they finally reach the Rocinante Cool Starship, they are barely able to stand and the ship's Auto Doc keeps entering hospice mode.
- In The Crown (2016), George VI continues to cough blood even after one cancerous lung is removed. He is told by his physician that the team of doctors around him have been keeping secret the extent of George's cancer, and that he likely has less than a year to live.
- On Supernatural, this is a standard clause in every Deal with the Devil. The human has only ten years to live after making the deal. Despite this and the usual price of torture in hell, there are still plenty of people making such deals.
- The Patient in The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance. This is particularly apparent in "Dead!", "Cancer", and "Sleep".
- Crash Test Dummies:
- "I'm still young but I know my days are numbered" is the opening line to "At My Funeral"
- The entire album "Songs For The Unforgiven" seems to be Brad's fear of this trope.
- The Bee Gees' "I've Gotta Get a Message to You" was about a man on Death Row.
I've just got to get a message to you, hold on, hold on.
One more hour and my life will be through, hold on, hold on.
- The creators of South Park included a cheery little ditty called "Dead Dead Dead" in their Christmas album.
"The minute you're born you start dying,You die a little more every day,Young or old, rich or poor, there's nothing you can do to stop it....""And so on Christmas morning let good tidings fill your head,And thank God for your family, 'cause someday you'll be dead."
- The Wham Line in "Terrible Things" by Mayday Parade has the singers currently deceased wife telling him about her illness.
She said, "Boy, can I tell you a terrible thing?""It seems that I'm sick and I've only got weeks.""Please, don't be sad now.""I really believe you were the greatest thing that ever happened to me."
- "24" by Jem is about a woman who is given twenty-four hours to live, though it's unspecified if it's of natural causes or if someone is out to kill her. It counts down throughout the song until one hour before her death.
- The Johnny Cash song "25 Minutes to Go" narrates the last 25 minutes of a man's life before he's hanged.
- In a series one episode of The Ricky Gervais Show Karl discusses the invention of a watch that counts down how many days a person has left to live. When it reaches day three, it tells the wearer to visit a doctor.
- If a character in Rocket Age has the Striken trait they have a terminal illness and will die sometime in the next few months or years. Rules-wise this gives them extra story points but prevents them from using them to prevent their death.
- This trope defines the "Doomed" playbook in the Powered by the Apocalypse game Masks. Fulfilling certain story requirements or using certain powers advances your Doom track, which can be used to pick up even more Doom-related powers... until you run out of options, at which point the final option is "Your doom arrives; confront it and perish."
- A 2010 Berlin performance of Bertolt Brecht's The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny toys with this. In the original play, two characters die from sheer decadence: one by overeating and one by losing a boxing match. In the 2010 performance, the stage directions were projected onto a screen and often ignored or even protested by the characters, following Brecht's philosophy of "Verfremdung". So when Jacob sees that the stage directions say he has to die, he first starts protesting, then laughing, then whimpering, then falls over helplessly and stays there for the rest of the act while other characters are swimming in money around his corpse. He's joined by the boxer character (Joe) soon after. The performance is... unsettling.
- The main plot of the 1960 play Send Me No Flowers (adapted into a Rock Hudosn/Doris Day film four years later) is about a hypochondriac man who overhears his doctor on the phone, and ends up believing that he has days to weeks to live. Hilarity Ensues as he then starts preparing for his death, even trying to set his wife up with another man so that she will be cared for when he's gone.
- Raquel Applegate from Wild ARMs 4 is said to be suffering from a terminal illness throughout the game (and, indeed, dies in the ending). She's still a massively strong fighter in spite of this fact.
- The video game Persona 3 plays this very straight and extraordinarily well with a pair of characters. One of them, the Sun Arcana Social Link character Akanari is doomed to die of a genetic disease, and uses your character and a short story he is writing to come to terms. It is implied, and later proven by the Social Link post-script ending, that he died the very day he gave you his notebook, and his mother comes to speak to you on his twentieth birthday. The other character is Ryoji, a transfer student who appears in the last few months of the storyline to give you the opportunity to kill him and live in ignorance until The End of the World as We Know It. He is doomed regardless, but wishes you "good tidings in the New Year" if you spare him, hoping against hope that you manage to somehow beat Nyx.
- Also Chidori of Strega, who says that she has known the day she would die for a long time. She ultimately ends up giving her life to save Junpei after he is shot and nearly killed by Takaya. In the Expansion Pack Persona 3: FES, however, it's possible to bring her back.
- The rest of Strega also has only a short time to live; as the products and sole survivors of an attempt to artificially induce the Persona ability into a human, they know their days are marked and live life like every day will be their last. It's also what prompts them to oppose SEES and ultimately become Nietzsche Wannabes when the true nature of the Fall comes about.
- Persona 3 has so many examples it's not even funny. There's also Shinjiro Aragaki, who knows he's only got a limited amount of time left to live because of the adverse affects of the Persona suppressants he's taking. He ultimately decides to use his last days to give Ken Amada, whose mother he accidentally killed two years ago, a chance to settle accounts with him.
- In fact, during the final act of the game, when you know exactly when and how the world is going to end, the entire main cast probably qualifies. For awhile, anyway.
- Just to be even more clear, the first thing the player does in game is sign a deal in which the player is "given one year." It's not exactly clear what this year refers to, and many people understand that it means "a schoolyear." Even the character who presents this contract is surprised by the ultimate outcome. But this time limit keeps hanging over the player's head throughout the course of the year...
- Not so suprising since the words Memento Mori (remember that you are mortal/that you will die) can be considered to be the game's Arc Word (even though it only appears in the opening credits). In fact it can be seen as one of the main themes of the game, telling you that you will die some day so live your life while you can.
- In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Snake finds out that, due to accelerated ageing programmed into his genes from birth, he's got around 6 months left to live. Worse yet, the FOXDIE virus he was injected with at Shadow Moses, 9 years earlier, has started to mutate, and will turn him into a walking, pandemic bio-weapon within 'bout 3 months. Good motivation for One Last Mission, huh? And no pesky worrying about an exit-strategy...
- Considering what Snake has lived through by the end of the game, including the absolutely soul-wrenching microwave corridor, old age is really the only thing that will stop him. That's debatable, since, according to a very skilled doctor, he should be dead before the game even begins. So his days might be numbered, but that number passed a while ago, and he's still going.
- According to Baron Praxis in Jak II: Renegade, Jak's Dark Eco powers will eventually kill him. Jak doesn't care, because his main objective at that stage in his life is to hurl Praxis' regime to the ground, with Praxis himself preferably on fire. Despite this, he doesn't actually die in the end, because a Precursor is kind enough to counterbalance the Dark Eco effects somehow.
- Lau Chan of the Virtua Fighter series has a rare illness that will eventually kill him. Still, he keeps entering fighting tournaments in search of a successor to his fighting style.
- Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis has a textbook example with Jessica, without the angsting part. At least until a Faking the Dead scene orchestrated by her friends showed her the truth. One of the few, serious moments during the game's side quests.
- Tales Series:
- Shows up in Devil Survivor in impressive form. One of the functions of the COMP provides you with an uplink to the Laplace system, showing a "Death Clock" over the heads of people who have less than ten days to live. Most of Tokyo reads 7 days remaining. Your initial party reads 1, and that's during the prologue; you spend a lot of the game trying to get that number to increase.
- It's interesting in that merely reading the Laplace Mail, a prediction of the future, can change the days you have remaining. For instance, the reason you start with one day is because you read a prediction where 3 people are killed in a specific place. So, you go and try and stop it. Turns out the 3 people who died are the ones who went to prevent it.
- Actually, in that case, they wander into that one without even realizing it. The real example would be (iirc) the fight with Beldr, which is predicted to kill 50 people. So, let's go stop him! Wait, why's everyone calling him Beldr the IMMORTAL!? Oops...
- It's interesting in that merely reading the Laplace Mail, a prediction of the future, can change the days you have remaining. For instance, the reason you start with one day is because you read a prediction where 3 people are killed in a specific place. So, you go and try and stop it. Turns out the 3 people who died are the ones who went to prevent it.
- DAWN OF THE FIRST DAY -72 HOURS REMAIN-.
- This is the cause of Kuze Shuuichi's angst in ef - a fairy tale of the two.; he has a rare heart disease that no one knows how to treat.
- In Heavy Rain, this happens if you decide to drink the poison for the fifth trial. As far as you know.
- In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, all four bounty hunters' bodies start producing phazon (Phazon is highly toxic). Eventually, Samus has to kill the other three bounty hunters, who had been corrupted by phazon. The only reason Samus doesn't get corrupted is that she destroys a load-bearing-boss on Phaaze, the source of all phazon, destroying the planet, which causes phazon to cease to exist. It makes sense in context.
- Overlord Zetta of Makai Kingdom falls under The One's curse and is doomed to die in 3 days. It wasn't really The One, just a random walking Corn guy.
- In Mass Effect 2, Drell Assassin Thane Krios is dying from a disease, which he makes clear to Shepard. He's trying to spend his last days making the world a better place and in his personal mission attempting to save his son from following his footsteps.
- When the third game (which takes place half a year after the second) actually rolls around, he claims that he was given three months to live... nine months ago. In the game, he can in fact die, but from Kai Leng's sword through the chest, not from his disease.
- Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter uses this as a game mechanic. Your character embarks on a quest to make it to the surface - if it even exists - before his dragon counter reaches 100%. Once that happens, the dragon inhabiting him will take over and he will die. As you play through the game, the very act of walking will raise the counter by .01% every few seconds (and running will raise it faster than that.) Using various attacks in battle raise it up further and faster. If you don't play the game smart, you won't be able to finish it. At least, on your first try.
- Dead Rising gives you 20 hours before you turn into a zombie after the initial 72 hours of the storymode pass by.
- Dead Rising 2 gives you 20 hours before Fortune City is bombed to oblivion after the military's failed attempt to contain the zombie infection.
- Takenaka Hanbe from Sengoku Basara suffers from tuberculosis, which in those days had no cure. He decides to make the most of his time left by doing everything in his power to make his master Hideyoshi ruler of Japan. He dies shortly before the events of the third game.
- The World Ends with You. One of the main premises of the game is that, well, the character themselves are in a game of sorts. The game lasts for a total of one week, and every day, each "Player" gets a text message with a mission for the day, after which a timer immediately (and painfully) appears on their hand. If none of the Players finish the mission before the timer runs out, the Game Master for the week officially wins, and all of the players are "Erased". However, it only takes a single pair of players (they all come in pairs, as part of the First Day's mission is to find a partner) to win for everyone to get a pass for the day. It's not always you.
- Professor Layton and the Unwound Future reveals a heartbreaking twist at the end; that Claire, who was transported into the future by the experimental time machine, will very soon be whisked away back to milliseconds before the explosion that was thought to have killed her, and there's nothing anyone can do, lest they potentially cause a time paradox. Unfortunately, Dmitri tries to save her, kidnapping scientists to work on a time machine.
- Final Fantasy:
- In Final Fantasy IX, it is heavily implied that the Black Mage golems have a set expiration date. As does Kuja.
- In Final Fantasy XIII the L'Cie brands come with this. Once branded, a L'Cie only has a certain amount of time to complete their given focus before they turn into a Cei'th corpse (starting out as a shambling zombie-type monster, before turning into a stationary stone forced to relive their failed focus, forever). the time they have left can be tracked by the "eye" in the center of their brand, which opens as the mark advances, when it opens all the way, you turn Cei'th, this drives the party for the better part of the game. It's ultimately revealed to be averted with the main characters, the Fal'cie manipulating the L'cie heroes halt their marks after a certain point because he needs them to fulfill his Evil Plan, and wants them to have all the time they need to get strong enough to do so. And at the end of the game, they have the limit revoked completely when they succeed in their focus yet don't stay in crystal stasis, gaining "ruined" brands with no eye, much like Fang.
- And in the sequel Final Fantasy XIII-2, Noel knows that when a seeress sees a change to the time-line, it shortens her lifespan. and then he realises that Serah is seeing the same visions. She eventually decides that saving the future is worth her life
- Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII does this for the entire world, much like Majora's Mask, though her actions do extend the time limit up to a certain point.
- Reinforce Eins and the Lieze twins in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable : The Gears of Destiny are doomed to die in the near future and they know it. In both cases, they've accepted their fates and are trying to make the best of their remaining lives, atoning for past sins and preparing the next generation to ensure that the future is still in good hands.
- One of the eponymous dragonslayers in Dragon Valor is cursed by a dragon halfling to die in a month, unless she finds and bests him in combat.
- In Dragon Age, becoming Grey Warden leaves someone with roughly 30 years left to live due to the Darkspawn Taint running through their veins. When an older Warden senses their time is drawing near, they embark on their Calling, descending into the Darkspawn-filled Deep Roads to go out in a blaze of glory against the horde.
- However, it's later revealed that the Grey Wardens are merely high-functioning ghouls, possessing the enhanced strength and stamina of the Darkspawn with a connection to their Hive Mind, but nonetheless keeping their own free-will left intact. The Calling itself is simply a ritual created by the senior Wardens so they can die as themselves before the Taint turns them into normal ghouls, who are little more than thralls to the horde.
- In Origins' Warden Keep DLC, Avernus, a blood mage Warden, has been experimenting with the Taint and apparently found a way to not only prevent himself from becoming a Ghoul, but to extend his life for centuries. This suggests that it is possible to circumvent this trope with all Grey Wardens.
- In BlazBlue, Litchi Faye-Ling found out that she only has moments until her Boundary corruption overwhelms her and will turn her into another Arakune. Since the only one whom she knows have the cure refuse to hand it out for her, she is Forced into Evil in order to attain the cure quick enough before it consumes her.
- In the 3rd game, the price Hakumen pays for using Time Killer to kill Terumi is effectively damning himself to this unless he somehow recovers the majority of himself that's still in the Boundary. Even Rachel observing him is no longer enough to ensure his survival. The Chronophantasma of Celica is also on borrowed time due to her artificial body constantly being damaged by her innate abilities which she can't turn off; Kokonoe reckons she has a month left, six if she's lucky.
- At the end of Super Robot Wars Destiny, provided you recruit them, you find out that ex-Ruina generals Glacies and Ventus only have 3 years to live once everything is over. What happens to them is left ambiguous, but you get the hint that they're gonna make the best out of it. When Destiny is included in Original Generations, the Destiny protagonists Joshua and Rim are trying to find out a way to extend Glacies' lifespan, and possibly Ventus' as well ('possibly' because he threw himself into the Crossgate to seal Perfectio forever so the days question might be moot inside)
- Also in OG, as per her origin, Ariel Org of Real Robot Regiment only have moments in life as a result of being a product of Idealant Project. Like Glacies/Ventus, in the original game, she decided to live the rest of her life by making the best out of it, and in OG fellow Artificial Human Lamia Loveless is helping to find a way to remove that problem by reverse-engineering herself. Also, this trope is the reason why Ariel's 'rival/brother' Duvan Org becomes very power hungry and instead tried to achieve godlike power.
- After Guilty Gear X, Milia kills Zato-1, but this allows Eddie, the parasite that gave Zato-1 his powers, to fully control his body. However, as Zato's body is dead, it's decaying - and when it becomes unusable, Eddie will die. Thus he spends subsequent games hunting for a new host. Zato-1 is resurrected in Xrd, which saves Eddie... but pisses him off, because that means he's stuck being a tool again.
- Polka in Eternal Sonata. At least she, like all terminal patients, gains incredible magic powers as a trade off for having her life cut short.
- Metallia from The Witch and the Hundred Knight only has 100 days left to live.
- Various games and other services that need the Internet usually require some form of a "Master Server", which in the case of online videogames allows users to see other multiplayer servers and connect to them. The cost of operating a master server means they are usually shut down a few years after a game phases out of popularity; when the server goes down, it either becomes impossible (such as in a MMORPG) or difficult and convoluted to join a game. Gamespy, whose software and hardware powered literally hundreds of games multiplayer announced a total service shut down on May 31 2014, leading to thousands of users playing their games online for one last time. Various workarounds were later made for some games (i.e. MechWarrior Living Legends and by extension Crysis) to re-enable multiplayer, and some games (i.e. Battlezone II had official patches to switch to a different master server.
- Tsukimi Planet has Utarou learning that he has a short amount time left to live. Tsukimi is there to offer him any wish he wanted, including giving him more time.
- In the Team Fortress 2 animation "Expiration Date" it's revealed that the teleporters used by the teams cause tumors to form in whatever goes through them. Thus, they all have three days to live.However, it's subverted when it's revealed that the "tumors" were some kind of bizarre life form that can only form in an environment of pure wheat.
- The plot of Pharaoh Rebirth starts when the protagonist is cursed by a pharaoh to die in seven days. The solution? Find some artifacts that grant immortality.
- The plot of The Hero Must Die begins with the protagonist dying after defeating the Big Bad. Thankfully for him, an angel brings him back to life, but only for five days.
- A game mechanic in Golden Sun: the Curse spell causes a small number of flames to appear next to the afflicted character's head, going down by one every turn. When they run out, the character is KO'ed (it can be dispelled by a restoration spell, and only lasts until the end of that battle).
- From the Fatal Frame series: This is the fate that has befallen Miku. After the events of I, she feels guilty about leaving his brother behind even though said brother decided to do so of his own volition. The guilt caused her to become cursed in III and, when she sees his spirit, she runs after him to rejoin him, resulting in her giving birth to a daughter, which drastically shortens her lifespan. Depending on which action the player takes in V, she's either alive by still dying or Dead All Along.
- The Servants in Fate/stay night. Their reason to materialize in the human plane is solely to participate in the Holy Grail Wars; after that, they effectively 'die'. By a matter of fact, they are summoned specifically to die, their energy of an heroic-spirit is needed to fuel the Holy Grail. Though various means exist for a Servant to cheat "death" and remain after the war's end; Gilgamesh did so after the previous war, and it's possible for Rider to survive in the Heaven's Feel route.
- Rika from Higurashi: When They Cry recognizes that she and everyone else in the town will be dead within a month. She frequently tries to hint at this to others however it comes off as creepily ominous. Rika has been stuck in a "Groundhog Day" Loop for at least a century where she relives the last month of her life continuously. She is unable to break the loop until the end of the series.
- In Kanon, the foxes on the hill overlooking the town can use a miracle to become human, but they must give up their memories and their life to do so, meaning they won't live very long after their miracle occurs, so they have to live their remaining life to the fullest while they can. This explains the whole deal with Makoto Sawatari... she is one of these foxes.
- At the start of Katawa Shoujo, hero Hisao has a heart attack and is diagnosed with a serious, potentially fatal heart condition. A big part of the Visual Novel's plot deals with him coming to terms with the fact that he could die any moment (though his condition isn't untreatable).
- The plot of Shall We Date?: Angel or Devil focuses on the protagonist having one week left to live. Her fate will depend on her selected lover.
- In Anti Bunny this is the entire premise of Nailbat's story. The protagonist's remaining lifespan is fixed at one year no matter what he does. So what to do with one year of immortality? Become a superhero of course.
- Rosof Tions Sarhgress as a Drow in the Drowtales universe, should for all intents and purposes be able to live well into his 900's, but his years living outside of drow society have caused him to do something a drow normally never does, age. Now he is very slowly dying of old age, well drow older than him are both younger looking and much healthier.
- Parodied in Adventurers!; right before the Final Boss fight, Khrima is told this by Karn, and responds in an appropriately epic/goofy manner:
"More like...numbered to infinity! For my number will continue to increment! The only number of consequence is your chance of beating me! And that's ZERO!"
- In Grim Tales, Grim is revealed to have been adding sand to Mandy's life-hourglass in order to extend her life. On the other hand, Billy's own life-hourglass looks like someone hiccuped while blowing the glass. Lots of times. And there's sand everywhere in it.
- Belkar Bitterleaf in The Order of the Stick. The Oracle mentions that he "should savour his next birthday cake", along with several other less than subtle hints, surprisingly early on, but everyone forgets it due to the spell ensuring they only remember the predictions they paid for. The Oracle later gives Roy's ghost an official prediction (carefully worded to avoid Prophecy Twist, not that this stops fans who don't want to accept the Belkster's impending demise from trying) that he will "take his last breath - ever - before the end of the year", of which there are less than seven weeks left. There's no way of knowing how many strips that means, however.
- Marilyn Seong, AKA Mecha Maid from Spinnerette suffers from ALS and has maybe a year or two left.
- A Beginner's Guide to the End of the Universe has this happen to the protagonist in the second half as he catches an incurable disease and begins slowly dying.
- In El Goonish Shive, when Ellen is first created she and Elliot come to the (false) conclusion that she'll die in less than a month.
- In Prophecy Of The Circle, the tikedi Jahrd and his father Jacind may have a genetic mortal disease called "desert drowning".
- From Knite, we have a terminally ill Min-Min and, going by what her brother said, she doesn't have very much time, which hammers home of exactly how severe her illness and the pollution that caused it is.
- In Sandra and Woo, we've known for years Larissa has A) psychological issues for which she takes medication, B) diabetes. In strip #718, we learn she has an underlying condition that caused both: Wolfram Syndrome - a disease for which the oldest known sufferer lived to 49 and the median lifespan is 28.
- In the Enthalpy episode "Robot Pilot; Or, McDarnold's La Verite", Charles is told that he will die in three hours because he ate a rotten burger. Charles uses his time to try and exact revenge on the restaurant he bought the burger from. Played for Laughs, in this case.
- In the KateModern episode "The Confession", Griffin reveals that he injected fifteen girls with a serum that has had the side effect of slowly killing their immune systems, meaning that they will die in a few months time. Charlie, Kate, Julia, Steve and Terry attempt to track them down, but all are either missing or dead by the time they reach them, with one exception, Lauren. Following the events of "Precious Blood", Lauren is currently being kept alive only by taking a variety of pills daily for the rest of her life, as revealed in "The Drugs Do Work".
- Survival of the Fittest: no matter which way you cut it, all but one of the students on any of the islands are subject to this trope - and the guy who isn't won't be found out until right at the end. Additionally, every character except the most arrogant ones goes into the game assuming they're going to die.
- In the Whateley Universe right now, there's an interesting variant. A young wizardess is trying desperately to avoid the consequences of an unstoppable curse. The variant? Said wizardess is the villainess Hekate, and the heinous curse was put on her by Fey, who is supposed to be one of the good guys.
- Toki, a heart-breaking example, was the victim of this while she was ill leukemia in this story and another . Both instances are the same but, the latter story omitted one thing and that was that she was being severely abused and was neglected, leading to her days being formally numbered and the amount of time she was given was only a few weeks, proving the extent of her illness.
- The main characters of Twig are experiments created by Mad Scientist professors of an Academy of Evil, each with an assigned group of doctors to monitor their progress and report on the results. However, each project has an expiration date, and when the narrator, Sylvester, discovers them early on, he confirms that most of them aren't going to live to see twenty.
- In an episode of The Venture Bros., Dr. Orpheus is accidentally shot by Action Man. When everything is resolved, he grabs his hands...
Dr. Orpheus: Two years, seventeen days.Action Man: ...what?Dr. Orpheus: From a stroke. Good day, sir!
- One of the episodes of Hey Arnold! has Grandpa Phil dreading his 81st birthday since his family is "cursed" to die at that exact age. Even though a doctor's check-up shows that he's capable of bench-pressing more than 200lb. he constantly talks about how he's doomed to die. The episode ends with Arnold pointing out that his relatives all died when they were 91, meaning that Phil's at least got a good 10 years before he needs to start worrying.
- This is a major plotpoint in the Futurama film "Bender's Big Score." Lars, despite being in love with Leela, breaks up with her because he is actually a time paradox-created clone of Fry who went back in time and lived an additional 12 years in the past before returning to the 3000s. After learning from Professor Farnsworth that all the time paradox clones will die in order to correct history he ended his relationship because he wanted her to be spared the grief of his eventual death. It comes to pass at the end of the movie when he dies via Heroic Sacrifice.
- On an episode of The Jetsons, George goes for his physical and, afterwards, the doctor tells him he's probably going to die soon and says if he has anything he's ever wanted to do, do it now. George takes advantage of this to finally tell off Mr. Spacely. Spacely is impressed enough by this display of fearlessness that he offers George the opportunity to be the test pilot for the indestructible jacket his company has designed. Just before the last test (where two missiles will be fired at him), the doctor tells him there was a mistake and he'll probably live to be 150.
- Those involved in networking know that packets have a variable set that is decremented when it hits each point, designed to keep packets from endlessly roaming the Internets like lost souls. What's this value called? Time To Live. It dies at 0, naturally.