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A spirit trapped within a tree, no mouth to scream or eyes to see.
A cage of bark, a prison of wood. A thing of rage where nature stood.
The Grand Oak on the Sylvans, Dragon Age: Origins

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A character suffers from an extremely horrifying Fate Worse than Death. Suicide is not an option; even death never comes to free him from it. He is immobilized or otherwise contained, unable to communicate with anyone, and unlikely to be removed from this situation — not even by death — anytime in the foreseeable future.

This is often a variation of Taken for Granite in which the victim remains conscious, and the worst-case scenario for tropes such as Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere, Baleful Polymorph, Phantom Zone Picture, and Who Wants to Live Forever?.

Usually, when this arises, it is eternal unless he's freed by outside forces, but a "mere" years-long or centuries-long fate is possible. For instance, a robot with a 100-year battery life getting buried underground. In fact, this is a very common sci-fi trope involving artificial intelligences who are potentially immortal due to being made of software. Unfortunately, if a victim is rescued, he may well have been driven insane from the experience. (Some of the listed examples show exactly that.)

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Sometimes appears as a Backstory, if a Sealed Person In A Can was aware while sealed away. Can overlap with Go Mad from the Isolation if the character's separated from other people rather than among them but unable to interact.


Examples

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    Music 
  • "Hyperspace Cryogenic Insomnia Blues" by Tom Smith, in which the singer is awake during his cryogenic sleep.
    We're two weeks out of Terran orbit
    Ten years left to go...
  • "One" by Metallica, inspired by Johnny Got His Gun, focuses on a soldier who has his eyes, ears, mouth, arms, and legs destroyed (by a WWI German artillery shell in Johnny and a Vietnamese landmine in "One"), but is still conscious. Though he eventually manages to communicate with the doctors and military men keeping him alive, they refuse to disconnect his life support, and he presumably must exist in that condition (unable to communicate with anyone, see or hear anything, go anywhere, etc.) for the rest of his natural life. Now there's an unsettling thought. The song itself tells the story rather well, especially with these lines:
    Darkness imprisoning me
    All that I see, absolute horror
    I cannot live, I cannot die
    Trapped in myself, body my holding cell
    Landmine has taken my sight
    Taken my speech, taken my hearing
    Taken my arms, taken my legs
    Taken my soul, left me with life in Hell!
  • The song "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath is about a man from a post-apocalyptic world where everything was devastated by a man made of metal. He travels back in time to warn the people of the past, but something goes wrong during the time travel process and "he was turned to steel." He is aware of his surroundings, but unable to move or speak, and he is completely ignored by everyone who sees him. He is driven insane and when he finally regains mobility, he goes on a rampage and devastates everything.
  • Iron Savior's song "Watcher in the Sky" is from the point of view of the living brain of Iron Savior as the spaceship travels endlessly, out of his control and increasingly unresponsive.
  • Queensrÿche's "Screaming In Digital" perfectly inverts the Trope Namer, taking the POV of a sentient AI which, though granted consciousness by its domineering maker ('father'), is callously denied the option to exercise free will or communicate with anyone else.
  • The video to Radiohead's "There There" has Thom Yorke turned into a tree. A tree with his screaming face still visible.
  • "Brain Dead" by Judas Priest is about a man suffering from locked-in syndrome who desperately wants to die.
  • "Bird Song" by Florence + the Machine.
  • The second-to-last verse of Current 93's epic I Have A Special Plan For This World:
    There are some who have no voices
    Or none that will ever speak
    Because of the things they know about this world
    And the things they feel about this world
    Because the thoughts that fill a brain
    That is a damaged brain
    Because the pain that fills a body
    That is a damaged body
    Exists in other worlds
    Countless other worlds
    Each of which stands alone in an infinite empty blackness
    For which no words are being conceived
    And where no voices are able to speak
    When a brain is filled only with damaged thoughts
    When a damaged body is filled only with pain
    And stands alone in a world surrounded by infinite empty blackness
    And exists in a world for which there is no special plan.
  • The whole decay process in the song "The Hearse Song".
  • "Moonshadow" by Cat Stevens can be seen as someone trying to make the best of this.
  • "The Song That Never Ends" is an example of this once the Fridge Horror sets in. Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was. And they'll continue singing it forever just because this is the song that never ends. Yes it goes on and on my friends. Some people started singing it...
  • The song "Alien Breed", from Death Metal band Internal Bleeding, has this line:
    I am unable to speak
    I am unable to scream
    I watch in horror
    As the experiment goes on before me
  • mothy's Re_Birthday is the theme song of this trope. Just listen to it! For any not wanting to click the link, basically he's trapped in darkness where he can't hear or see anything and based on manual information it is most possibly the womb of a small doll.
  • The song Hamburger Lady by English band Throbbing Gristle to some extent. The song is based on a short writing by Dr. Al Ackerman who seconds as a from past medical experiences author. The story is focused on a woman burnt severely from the waist up, cutting off all senses and leaving her in a continuous state of agony.
  • In the Rush song Hemispheres, an emissary to the gods Apollo and Dionysus pilots a spaceship into the black hole of Cygnus X-1, so as to pass through the Astral Door:
    I have memory and awareness, but I have no shape or form.
    As a disembodied spirit, I am dead, and yet unborn.
    I have passed into Olympus, as was told in tales of old,
    To the city of immortals, marble white and purest gold.

    I see the gods in battle rage on high:
    Thunderbolts across the sky!
    I cannot move, I cannot hide.
    I feel a silent scream begin inside.
  • "Nightingale" by The Reign of Kindo is about a man left paralyzed and unable to speak after a car accident. To make things worse for him, his girlfriend left him for another man after the fact.
    "I was driving fast, with roses on my seat
    And headed home, I was late, with dinner getting cold
    When I was struck in the side of the car,
    And then I saw your face, I couldn't move, I couldn't say a word to you

    And everything in my world was yours,
    When I held you tenderly
    Oh now, my world is caving in, cause you're sleeping next to him,
    If I could die, you bet your life I would..."
  • Gloryhammer's first album, Tales from the Kingdom of Fife, ends with Evil Sorcerer Zargothrax being imprisoned in magical ice on Triton. On their second album, Space 1992: Rise Of The Chaos Wizards, he is released from his prison 1000 years later.
  • Very much so throughout the song "A Grave Within a Grave" by Lil Ugly Mane. A dismal, pessimistic telling of a first-person account of the events the narrator endures after death:
    From the inside of my corpse, 30 seconds is like a century
    Imprisoned in necrotic flesh
    Cognizant beyond my death
    Paralyzed and frozen in this carnal penitentiary
    Lucidly projecting hellish spectres
    Ghoulish architecture, enveloped
    In a darkness far beyond my mind can measure
    Suffocating violent pressure
    It just goes on forever, are these electro-
    Magnetic hallucinations?
    Is this everybody's afterlife or something I've created?
    Abandoned and dismissed in a flaccid
    Impotence with the cold illumination that I no longer exist
    In a grave within a grave
    It was the first time I prayed, no one
    There to tell me that I shouldn't be afraid
    Falling endlessly deeper, yet immobile and still
    In this infinite aethyr washing over
    My filth, neither angels or reapers or ghosts were fulfilled
    Just a cavity to soak up my guilt
    In my depravity, the flowers
    Up above me wilting down so they can laugh at me
    To think we spend our lives
    Convinced we understand agony, a familiar
    Voice: "He's finally at peace"
    Shrieking through the silence to remind me I'm deceased
    I tried to answer but the dead can't
    Speak, the biggest prison in the world's underground six feet.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • An example from Norse mythology: the fate of Loki's monster offspring, the wolf Fenrir. It is bound by unbreakable fetters and gagged by a sword stuck in the roof of its mouth. A river of blood and saliva flows continuously from its jaws. It remains bound and gagged like this until the end of time.
  • Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt for taking a last look at the home she lived in for so many years. Whether she was conscious after the transformation is to be debated, but if she was she couldn't move or speak while her salt body was slowly eroded by rainfall and winds (and maybe some local deer).
    • Although, it's debatable whether "turned into a pillar of salt" means she was literally Taken for Granite, or if it's a metaphor for something else (perhaps becoming basically an Empty Shell, or infertility).
  • In Chumash folklore (Native American tribe from Southern California), souls of murderers and other evil people are turned to stone from the neck down and are forced to watch other souls travel to the afterlife.
  • In Classical Mythology, Tithonus is granted immortality, but not eternal youth. As a result, his body withers and his mind decays; he remains, for all time, forgotten in some hidden room, babbling endlessly. (In another story, he eventually turns into a cricket.)
  • Greek mythology is full of these since many things were immortal.
    • Atlas being turned to stone by Athena, using Medusa's head, after he's condemned to bear the heavens (not the world) on his shoulders for eternity.
    • Although in some versions of the tale he asked to be turned to stone, as carrying the heavens had become too much for him to bear.
    • When the gods want to swear the most solemn of oaths, they swear on the River Styx in the Underworld. Some authors simply have the oath unbreakable, but others say it can be broken. The consequences are harsh indeed: for a year the oathbreaker lies unable to eat, drink, move, or breathe (and Greek gods cannot die). The next nine years, in which they merely cannot associate with other deities at all, looks mild in comparison.
    • Typhon. Trapped forever under Mount Aetna.
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    Podcasts 
  • In one of the Towers of Sorcery in The Fallen Gods, the enslaved merfolk. They can only say "How may I serve you today?" in a sing-song voice, unless given a command that requires them to say something not related to their status as slaves. If one does allude to this they begin to freak out and become anxious, but literally cannot change their tune.
  • In The Bright Sessions, Mark, an Unwitting Test Subject who could copy the powers of other atypicals he was physically near, was forced to mentally travel back to the 1800s with time traveler Camille. Unfortunately she died, and his mind was left stranded, unable to interact with anything or anyone, whilst his body was stuck in a coma in a Black Site in the present. Fortunately his sister found another time traveler and figured a way to rescue him after two years.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Both the old and new Vampire games (Masquerade and Requiem) had a variation on this. When Vampires are staked or starve for long enough, rather than dying, they are sent into torpor, a kind of stasis. This is far from mercy, as vampires in this state experience the world more or less in real-time, but suffer terrifying nightmares. And considering that very few kindred would willingly starve themselves into this kind of state, this probably means that said vampire is trapped somewhere, meaning that this state can go on indefinitely. No wonder a great many ancient vampires (and possibly the antediluvians and Caine in the original series) have been driven utterly insane when revived.
    • One sourcebook mentions that the nightmares tend to involve what put you into torpor in the first place, with Kindred starving to torpor stuck in an eternal loop where they hunt a human and never reach them. Go into torpor through violence, or being staked, and God help you— because you're going to relive that losing battle until someone finds it in their dead heart to revive you. That is, if they don't decide to chow down on you instead, in which case, you'll simply scream inside your immobile body and watch as your saviour devours everything that made you who you are and all your memories, before you crumble into a pile of ash. And that still doesn't end your torment, because it is rather heavily implied that you survive within your devourer's body for the rest of eternity.
      • Requiem somehow manages to make it worse; when you go into torpor, your memories tend to... shift. It's not uncommon for an ancient vampire to come out of a long torpor wondering what really happened, what was a story he heard second-hand, and what was just idle fantasy. Oh, and it's suggested in some books that vampire souls actually manage to travel to the Underworld when they're in torpor... and there are things in the Underworld that don't like them.
    • The Tzimisce in Vampire: The Masquerade do this for kicks to whoever screws with them, and a few who don't. Similarly, characters with an advanced understanding of the Obtenebration ability can use the Enter the Abyss power to take yourself and someone else into the Abyss, and it is very clear that you can leave them there, alone, to die.
      • In the sourcebook Mexico by Night there is a character description of one Jaggedy Andy who, as a mortal, insulted Sasha Vykos, the infamous Sabbat Tzimisce. When Andy spit in its face, Vykos just simply smudged its hand over the mortal's face, crafting bone and flesh over all his facial features. Just as he was about to die, Vykos made one of its thugs Embrace him. Now he wakes up every night without facial features and every night he must open his mouth and eyes with a hammer and chisel, which is a very painful process. To add to the insult, he is as good as grounded to the landfill in which he was left, because even poking his face outside could start an uproar both among Vampires and Mortals. Another thought to go through before messing with the Tzimisce...
    • Similarly, the Hierarchy in Wraith: The Oblivion does this to whoever causes too much trouble. Their ghostly corpus is "soulforged," boiled down and rendered into a permanent shape, be it a sword, a coin, or an ashtray. However, official word as of the 2nd edition is that Soulforging destroys the consciousness of the ghost being soulforged.
    • Changeling: The Lost does this to all changelings — your player character is someone who, by whatever scraps of luck, managed to somehow escape. And you have no idea if maybe, just maybe, you were actually let go. You may have been the pot in which a twining, bloodsucking rose was grown, your Keeper gently watering you with arcane acids and admiring the beauty of the flowers growing out from the slits in your lungs. You may have been twisted to have the body of a hound and the mind of a man, then the body of a man and the mind of a hound, over and over and back and forth until you couldn't tell which was which. You may have had to spend a hundred years walking along the razor edges of a network of swords, suspended high above a valley of crackling flames or gnashing rocks. The True Fae have such a wide variety of ways to "play" with humans...
    • In Mage: The Awakening, if an Abyssal entity doesn't simply kill you in horrible fashion or corrupt the next seven generations of your family to its service, it will likely inflict this upon you. Abyssal creatures are less than pleasant.
    • Demon: The Fallen defines Hell very succinctly. Imagine you could see every single dimension - all of them. You can see all the colors in the spectrum, every atom in every mote of dust... You are a being of all of reality. Got that? Shut that all off in a fraction of a second. And then keep it off. For millennia. It's just you, the others who were on your side, and the thought that everything you worked for has failed and can never be regained. Yeah, there's a reason the Demon Karma Meter is called Torment.
  • This trope nicely sums up the Warhammer 40,000 universe. And then there are hundreds of orders of magnitude nadirs that really stand out...
    • There's the God-Emperor of Mankind, the Messianic Archetype of the setting. Reduced to a shattered husk, kept on life support for 10,000 years (powered by the lives of 1,000 psyker every day), unable to move or communicate yet his living consciousness is used as a psychic navigation system for Faster than Light travel through what is basically Hell, and also while the unified humanity he worked to build falls into a dystopian hell around him. It gets more into it when you realise that everything he aspired to accomplish (secular humanism and the destruction of Chaos altogether) is being defiled and torn down by the Corrupt Church. In his name. On top of that, the supposed preachers of his word are also the ones possibly conspiring to keep him in the vegetative state, as they're all paranoid and believe that if he is allowed to die and reincarnate, he'll be gone forever and the Imperium will plunge into darkness forever (Inquisitor Lord Karamazov was famous for executing one of the supposed "reincarnations" of the Emperor, much to the chagrin of his colleagues). A quote about the 40k universe sums it up:
      "A galaxy where the only person still sane is powerless to do anything but watch the universe die."
      • According to the Inquisition War trilogy, he actually is still conscious and aware of his status on life-support, and still somewhat capable of psychic communication to anyone in his closest vicinity and freezing time to that person if he so wishes. It is heavily implied, however, that he cannot focus too much attention to communicating with anyone who he is talking with, or he'd not be able to handle the most vital parts of the Imperium, such as the Astronomican.
    • The Inquisition War trilogy also details the continuation of consciousness whilst suspended in a stasis field, though the consciousness is locked in whatever feeling was being felt at the submersion in the stasis field. Naturally this discovery is then used by the Inquisition to torture individuals for great lengths of time while effectively halting the decay of their bodies.
      • Hey, that means that Roboute Guilliman, Primarch of the Ultramarines is experiencing this. Mortally wounded by a poison blade wielded by his former brother primarch Fulgrim, the Apothecaries bundled him into a stasis field while on the verge of death and set him up as a shrine (something he would likely not appreciate). Ouch.
      • Unless Guilliman is still human enough to have the same endorphins as humans (and we're pretty sure he is). The human body actually dulls your pain in the moment of death, see, so in the words of 4chan "Guilliman's been high as a kite for the last ten thousand years."
      • Again, point of view is everything. Guilliman is serving as inspiration to his chapter and their many many successors. While he might be suffering (and even that's quite a noble thing in the Imperium), he is also watching over his sons as they fight for the Emperor as he did. Even in their darkest days, Guilliman is standing vigil...
    • A spinoff short story Into the Maelstrom has a traitor Space Marine imprisoned in a Dreadnaught battle suit, normally an honor, but never released, so he is doomed to live forever in a small metal box, with no limbs. This is in fact the fate of all Space Marines encased in Dreadnaught armour, with the occasional mindless rampage, but it isn't always this trope (and is a good example of how a different attitude can affect the outcome). Regular Space Marines, both those encased and their brethren, consider it an honour as they can fight the Emperor's enemies even after death, albeit with slowly degrading mental faculties. Chaos Marines however, being Sense Freaks taken to the literal utter screaming extreme, consider it to be the worst punishment imaginable, as even while battling they can't feel the joy of slaughter and while inactive their brethren have to chain them to a wall to prevent the completely bugfuck insane Marine (even by Chaos standards) from breaking loose and killing everyone. Note that in all cases, the occupant of a Dreadnought can scream, it's just that in the case of Chaos Dreadnoughts, there's no one around that cares.
      • Later Chaos Dreadnoughts and their Helbrute successors were purposely built with this in mind, their sarcophagi reconfigured to drive the occupants into madness, which the occupants can never get used to either.
      • Any Daemon Weapon or a bound Daemon results in this on an Eldritch Abomination. The daemon is so crazy that he will attempt to devour its wielder just so it can get some sort of outside contact, even though such an act would result in the weapon being rendered inert again.
    • Fulgrim has an impressive one of these, as the primarch Fulgrim is eventually completely possessed by the demon joyriding in him, who keeps him fully aware of its actions in his body, which is mutated by the demon into something more pleasing to it. While his soul was trapped inside a portrait. As this occurred during the Horus Heresy, the fate is up to 10,000 years and running.
      • Not necessarily; Horus vowed that he would free Fulgrim from that particular fate, and there's a chance he managed it before dying. We'll have to wait and see.
      • Then it's revealed that Fulgrim had successfully regain control of his body, and he trapped the daemon in the portrait he was trapped in, and fully embraced his new form as a Daemon Prince.
      • This could be a case of Cursed with Awesome, as all fallen Primarchs are now Daemon Princes.
      • The primarch Lorgar spends his entire time thinking about the true nature of Chaos.
    • Haemonculi do this to their victims, surgically altering their bodies until they are, say, a collection of organs still alive and sentient, or a sack of helpless flesh. The Haemonculi arts, however, are in fact required by the Dark Eldar to survive (pain and the suffering of others apparently grants them immortality so that they in turn do not suffer this trope under Slaanesh). Needless to say, this may very well apply to every single slave of the Dark Eldar.
      • In Nightbringer, the Ultramarines find a victim of a Haemonculus on Pavonis that was entirely dissected and hung piece by piece like a blown-apart cross section of a human being. Then they see that the various pieces and organs of the victim are still connected by veins and nerve strands. THEN they realize the victim is still alive and feeling every agonizing moment, and is trying to rasp "kill me" at the marines. It freaks the fearless Ultramarines out so much they open fire and euthanize everything in the vicinity to splinters. High octane nightmare fuel indeed.
    • The Eldar as a whole. Once Eldar die, their souls are still fully conscious in the Warp and then immediately sucked into a hellish disgusting vortex by Slaanesh to eternally torture and rape them in countless different ways day and night forever and ever. Thus it is completely necessary for them to make gut-wrenching sacrifices, including manipulating entire civilizations into destroying each other (and in the case of the Dark Eldar, torturing other species as sacrifice to appease said god of pain), just so that they can save one of their own. All Eldar need to carry with them a Spirit Stone (or Waystone in some versions) that absorb their soul upon death, preventing Slaanesh from getting his hands on them. These same stones can be used to revive them in the form of a Wraithguard or Wraithlord or (in the case of farseers) put into the craftworld to join a crystal wall of seers for all of eternity, sharing their knowledge with their descendants. However, it's known that several craftworlds are desolate and completely devoid of life, as well as Eldar falling on foreign worlds, their stones remain unretrieved for possibly many years, or never. They will be stuck alone, unable to communicate with anyone (it's stated that they only join their ancestors once their spirit stones are attached to the infinity circuit), for all that time. And you know what? This fate is still far better than the other gruesome alternative.
      • A similar fate happens to Exarchs. These are warriors who are lost upon their path of war and unable to leave it, becoming instructors to others that want to learn the art as well as leaders in war. Each Exarch, upon death, would merge with their suit rather than their Spirit Stone, so that they may once again join the next generation of warriors when their suit is donned again (they merge spirits with whoever wears the suit). Phoenix lords go through the same thing, except that their personality completely dominates the other souls. Much like the Spirit stones, it's implied that many exarch, and some phoenix lords, now lay on some forgotten world, their suit lost forever and unable to communicate with anyone.
      • Funny you should mention the Dark Eldar, they quite literally feed on the suffering of their captives and are skilled enough to keep one alive for months or even years under torture. Sometimes they'll actually allow a slave to die or kill themselves only to bring them back alive and feed on their despair when they wake up again from their death on the operating table of a Haemonculi.
    • Still nothing compared to the Outsider and possibly some Necrons - they were imprisoned before humans ever arose, on the order of some 60 million years. When awake the Necrons fall into this trope, completely subservient automatons trapped within effectively immortal metal shells. Most Necrons are "fortunately" mindless and probably not aware of their situation, but Necron Lords most definitely are.
    • Almost the entire Thousand Sons Legion suffers from this, as a screwed up spell caused most of them to be reduced to dust with their souls trapped in their armour. They can still move (and fight) but are utterly enslaved to Ahrihman and the other non-dusted leaders.
    • One of Slaanesh's circles of temptation is filled with fantastical treasures. Anyone who touches one of the golden statues will be turned into gold himself, while his soul remains fully conscious.
      • Speaking of Slannesh, there's also his champion, Lucius the Eternal. If you kill him and feel the smallest amount of satsifaction for your deed, you will ever so slowly be transformed into Lucius. Eventually nothing will be left of you, except for a new, throbbing face with an eternal scream fixed onto it on Lucius' armor, and in the 10,000 or so years that he has been killing (And been killed) he has dozens, if not hundreds of those faces covering his armor.
    • In the new Necron codex, there is mention of a crownworld where an alien prophet's head is kept alive in stasis to predict the future. It's implied to have been stuck there for the past 60 million years.
    • There is also a daemon that was banished and trapped within its own skull by the Grey Knights, and is kept in that state by the constant chanting of acolytes.
    • The Grey Knights' Vault of Labyrinths has several dozen Soul Jars that contain daemons trapped inside them.
    • A milder example occurred in the short story "Among Fiends". The Chaos Champion Scaevolla is forced by the gods to choose between hunting down the progeny of his former best fried for all eternity or spawnhood. He isn't pleased.
    • Space Wolves member Lukas the Trickster replaced one of his two hearts with a stasis bomb, set to go off when his remaining one stops beating. Whoever's caught with him in the blast will be trapped in an eternal time loop of a few seconds, forced to hear him laugh as his very last, and very best prank pays off, for eternity.
  • Warhammer Fantasy has Count Mordrek the Damned, which under normal circumstances would be a redundant title for any Chaos warrior. This one suffers from constant and horrific mutations, but unlike most that suffer this fate, he remains sealed inside his armor, and his mind has been left intact. It's also mentioned that every time he dies the Chaos gods resurrect him, and this has been going on for so long that no one remembers which god he worshiped, or what he did to offend them.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The setting has the Imprisonment spell, which entombs the subject for an indefinite amount of time somewhere "far beneath the surface of the earth". Normally, this spell is not an example as the victim is put in Suspended Animation and won't remember any part of its imprisonment when released. However, in Baldur's Gate this is not the case as the player is threatened with this spell (and the emphasis of suffering) by a Harper, and one can free a number of people from an artifact that imprisons users in the Underdark; all but two (one who'd only been in there for days, and another who was The Undead and presumably too crazy to be affected) are alive but incurably insane.
      • In 5e, Imprisonment can be cast by Warlocks and Wizards as a 9th level spell. The effect vary, but each one is what-the-fucktopus territory. Burial is the classic version, Chaining and Slumber is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, Hedge Prison throws the target in a Pocket Dimension of whatever the caster wants, be it a tower, a cage, another confined structure, or, if you're feeling especially sadistic, a labyrinth, and Minimus Containment, which shrinks the target down to 1 inch, and places them in a gemstone for your viewing pleasure. Every version can only be dispelled by the caster, if a condition set by the caster is fulfilled or if someone wastes a 9th level spell slot on Dispel Magic, requiring a level 17 spell caster at least. If you don't have that, and really want your friend back, have fun searching down that Wish scroll...
    • The magic item the Mirror of Life Trapping can be used as a trap, a prison, or both. If a sentient being sees his reflection, he's drawn inside it, and kept in one of several cells, which can theoretically hold him forever. Even worse, a command word (usually known by the mirror's owner) can call a prisoner's image forth to be questioned. (The potential for abuse by diabolical villains is great; fortunately, all prisoners in a mirror can be released by breaking it, which is rather easy.)
    • The second Monster Manual in the 4th Edition describes a specific case, the fate of the Primordial Storralk, who challenged Demogorgon for the title of Prince of Demons and came very close to winning. Demogorgon spared him, but ripped his body to pieces, and used the still-living pieces to construct his throne room. Storralk still lives in this state, and the two-headed giants called ettins were originally spawned from his body, including Demogorgon's powerful Exarch Trarak. (Legend says that Storralk can be released from his imprisonment if Tharak is slain and her heart burned upon Demogorgon's throne; the freed Primordial could prove a valuable ally for anyone who would challenge the Prince of Demons.)
    • The splatbook Faces of Evil: The Fiends mentions the Tower of Incarnate Pain, under construction by the yugoloths on Carceri. It is made of both dead souls and any mortal beings who come too close to it; they are absorbed by the Tower and turned into bricks. Fortunately, all victims have been allowed to die eventually, because the yugoloths can't seem to keep the thing up. Three times, the geheleths have attacked the Tower and torn it into pieces, the absorbed victims screaming in the process.
    • It's hard to feel sorry for an aboleth, but as aquatic creatures, they can't breathe air for very long, but they do not "drown" if they are separated from the water too long. Instead, they enter a state called "Long Dreaming" which they consider far worse than death; a thick membrane forms around the aboleth, and it enters a state of suspended animation where it experiences hideous nightmares. (Of course, an aboleth in such a state is a sitting duck if an enemy - which is most other races - finds it, so it's usually killed soon anyway.)
    • The splatbook Hordes of the Abyss from 3.5 edition expands upon Demonic Possession and what it entails. One in particular, the transformer possession, allows the possessing demon to transform part of their host's body into a demonic shape. This trope comes into play when the demon completely transforms the victim; the book says "the demon has essentially replaced" the victim, leaving them trapped inside with no way to communicate or even fight from within AND having to see every atrocity the demon is committing.
    • The accompanying Tyrants of the Nine Hells describes a variety of Baatezu called the Nupperibo. These unfortunate devils have failed their superiors in some way, so they're carted off to be tortured and mutilated as part of their demotion to a lower form of fiend. Their get their eyes and mouth stitched shut, their ears are filled with lead, their bodies are pumped full of all manner of foulness until they're bloated with corruption, and finally their brains are extracted through their nostrils. The result is a blind, deaf, mute, mindless wretch that can serve as Cannon Fodder in the Blood War, a beast of burden/slave laborer, and a very potent reminder of the price of failure.
    • Levistus, Lord of the Fifth, has been stripped of his lordship and imprisoned inside a chunk of ice by Asmodeus for killing the Queen of Hell. After awhile, for reasons of his own, Asmodeus restored Levistus to his former position... without freeing him from the ice.
  • The Dungeons & Dragons' setting Ravenloft has a monster known as the Wall of Flesh. It's created when the rage and fear of a person who has been imprisoned within a wall mixes with Ravenloft's special flavor of magic.
    • Several named NPCs of the Land of Mists have likewise suffered this fate. Elise Mordenheim, trapped in a decaying and shattered body that her Mad Scientist husband struggles in vain to restore, is perhaps the most prominent example.
  • In the Forgotten Realms campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons, this is the fate of all souls that are judged to be Faithless or False (that is, being a Flat-Earth Atheist or subverting the faith you profess to) without another god interceding on their behalf: Their souls are stuck in the Wall of the Faithless, to spend eternity as mortar for the Wall while their souls are slowly digested into nothingness. The Wall was constructed by Myrkul, former God of the Dead, simply because it was his prerogative to decide what would happen to souls that no-one else would take responsibility for. By the time Myrkul was dethroned many centuries later, the Wall had become a necessity because Gods Need Prayer Badly.
  • The Transmogrification spell from GURPS: Magic keeps the target's mind intact and active but makes them in to an inanimate object for a while. The Entombment spell traps the target in a tiny bubble deep beneath the earth for eternity unless it is somehow undone.
  • Exalted, like Wraith: The Oblivion, has soulforging as a common practice in the Underworld. It goes past "common" — soulsteel is considered one of the five magical materials, and the Deathlords are all too willing to make their undead subjects into arms and armor for their Abyssal soldiers.
    • Made worse in that soulsteel was around before there was an Underworld. Autochthon, the great maker, had a race he made that pissed him off so much that he melted their entire civilization into slag and removed all references to them, and THEN took their souls and forged them into soulsteel inside his body.
    • The Ebon Dragon has Charms that allow him to banish victims to a horrifying darkness beyond reality where they are completely alone and from which there is no escape.
    • The Neverborn, who are simply too powerful to die, are locked in an eternal nightmare from which there is no obvious escape. This is how they can be sympathetic despite their plan (insofar as they are sane enough to have one) being the complete obliteration of everything that exists - because this is quite possibly the only way for them to finally escape.
  • Magic: The Gathering
    • Ravi, a planeswalker in the world of Ulgrotha, was desperate to end a huge war. She did so by ringing the Apocalypse Chime, which wiped out the whole battlefield of its warring parties, and put herself in a magic coffin designed by her mentor to avoid the destruction. Unfortunately, she didn't ascertain how to get OUT. She was eventually found by Baron Sengir, becoming the "delightfully" mad Grandmother Sengir.
    • The exile mechanic tend to use this trope (or otherwise a Fate Worse than Death) or Cessation of Existence to remove a creature from the game, such as the case with Unmake
  • In Burning Empires, infection by a Vaylen is treated much the same way as character permadeath because the infected character is irreversibly rendered unable to control its own body, effectively comatose, even when there's no worm driving it around.
  • In Monsters and Other Childish Things, the empty skin of a person an Excruciator has hollowed out into a Living Bodysuit is explicitly mentioned to be still live and conscious. No, the game doesn't even hint that there's any way to restore a person from this.
  • The canonical fiction of Cyberpunk 2020 has Alt Cunningham's personality/mind transfered into cyberspace by the evil Arasaka Corporation. When the connection to her lifeless body is severed, she becomes permanently trapped in there: "Behind the walls of monitors, a disembodied Alt screams to [her boyfriend]".
  • While the Immortality gift from Nobilis explicitly protects you from attempts to pull this, this doesn't stop it being played straight in some of the border fictions.
  • The Experiments Gone Horribly Wrong of Bleak World are defined by multiple different personalities that cannot directly control the body, but can talk to the prime consciousness. However, various perks allow experiments to silence, but not outright destroy, these personalities. Essentially this traps them in a state where they can see and experience everything they do, but never even affect the decision.

    Theatre 
  • Downplayed and even made slightly humorous in Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George. At the end of Act One, all of the characters we've seen throughout the first act form a living tableau of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat's masterpiece. It's a beautiful, powerful image... until Act Two begins. It's been one hundred years, and the people in that idyllic park scene have been trapped there for all of that time. While they're able to stretch slightly, they can only do so for a few seconds before they have to return to their positions. Time has stopped for them, and while they can't age, they're also wearing many thick layers of clothing on a blisteringly hot summer day, surrounded by people they've come to despise in the past century, and frozen exactly as they were the moment the painting was finished (a little girl with bad vision isn't wearing her glasses, so her vision will always be hopelessly blurred, and her hands are sticky; a boatman with bad hygiene has his odor lingering around him—and those sitting near him—and so on). And so long as art historians keep restoring La Grande Jatte, they're going to be stuck like that forever.
  • At the end of Act 3 of King Lear, Gloucester's eyes are forcibly removed by Regan and Cornwall. This doesn't sound too horrific, but then you remember that back then people thought that if your weren't "whole" you would be consigned to Hell when you died...
  • In the musical adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, the Enchantress's curse becomes one of these. Rather than automatically changing the Prince and his servants into a hideous beast and random household objects (presumably because there was no way to costume that convincingly), the spell instead works extremely slowly; the humans retain their normal sizes and shapes, but as time passes, they become more thing-like as their human features and appendages are gradually replaced with inanimate parts. It's never made clear whether or not completely transforming into an object (a fate that's befallen some of the servants already) kills you or traps your still-conscious mind in a piece of bric-a-brac without any sensory organs, but still very much alive.
  • Wicked has a particularly ambiguous and downright disturbing example. It's said throughout the play that animals are losing their power of speech, and if applicable, their ability to walk on two legs. But we're never told whether or not they actually remember when they could walk and talk, leaving one of two possibilities: either they have forgotten their own sentience, or they are psychologically tortured to the point of not speaking out for fear something will happen. Something Bad indeed.

    Theme Parks 
  • A subtle example in the queue for Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!. One of the artifact cases contains a damaged Ultron drone that makes vague threats of destroying humanity. Assuming that every other Ultron drone was destroyed (as is the case at the end of Age of Ultron), then that drone contains all of Ultron's massive code and consciousness, but is barely able to talk, let alone function.

    Toys 
  • BIONICLE has the Eldritch Abomination Tren Krom, who had his body sealed into an island and was rendered completely immobile. Furthermore, he was so hideous that anyone who looked at him ran the risk of going insane. Then, he went and tricked Lewa into switching bodies with him, leaving poor Lewa stranded on an isolated island in a monstrous, tentacled body, unable to move around, not being able to speak except via telepathy, and with no hope of rescue since his friends think he's still with them, if acting a bit strangely. It got reversed in the end, and after a while, Tren Krom was finally granted his freedom. And then murdered off screen instantly.
  • According to Sine's backstory in Little Apple Dolls she was transported to a purgatory full of people stuck in this fate after she died. It's referred to as "the in between" between life and death.
    The Little Girl saw many like her. They were pale and hollow eyed. Lost and lonely. Some, their eyes sealed shut and their mouths wiped away. They could not speak. They could not see. Their time before, was cut short by being real sick and having their lives taken by force. A little boy ran up towards her and shook her; he was speaking but she could not understand. He spoke in rustling leaves and sirens.

    Web Comics 
  • Trolls in Stand Still, Stay Silent are humans who undergone Viral Transformation by Rash Illness and turned into twisted, vicious, murderous monsters. Chapter 3 revealed that they are still conscious. After ninety years.
  • The Dragon Doctors brings us the story of Rina, who was Taken for Granite and left for two thousand years in a cave with nobody to talk to and no sensation at all (thankfully, she was only conscious for the first days). Fortunately the eponymous doctors rescued her. The comic also features Tanica, who was accidentally turned into a tree by Sarin. She can communicate with the others through magic, though.
    • Sarin actually was turned into a tree by his/her mentor as a lesson.
    • It's later revealed that a government did this to people who broke their no bodily alterations rule, just in case those people were ever needed. How useful those people would be after years, decades, even centuries as statues is questionable at best.
    • At one point some criminals petrified the crew of a Coast Guard ship and threw them overboard. Not only were they still conscious they could feel the water flooding their lungs so it was like drowning without end.
  • xkcd did a pretty literal one; it also skewers a classic schoolyard Lame Comeback as well.
  • In Drowtales, Kharla'ggen of the V'loz'ress clan has a creepy hobby when it comes to dealing with those who catch her fancy or resist. She uses her vast demonic powers to twist and turn their flesh, changing them into living breathing dolls and proceeds to use them to play dress up and snuggle.
  • Cyril's fate of being reduced to bone while unable to die and pinned by his own blade with King Rodericke regularly collecting shavings of him and then leaving him to heal in Charby the Vampirate.
  • In the completed sprite comic In Wily's Defense, Dr. Gabriel Knight was killed in a lab accident, but his soul survived in one of his incomplete robots through some divine intervention. The robot was kept frozen in stasis, unable to move or speak, but Gabriel could still see and hear everything happening in front of him. His wife, also a scientist specializing in robotics, disappeared for a year to mourn. Needless to say, Gabriel had completely lost his marbles by the time the robot was finished.
  • Florence in Freefall has had (mercifully brief) periods like this, thanks to her programming. In one instance, she's ordered to be happy; she complies outwardly but confesses to screaming on the inside. In a clearer instance, she has her voluntary movement suspended for an upgrade without warning; as soon as she gets it back, she shrieks belatedly.
  • Girl Genius:
    • There is a plant that gives off a pheromone (or something) that induces feelings of extreme happiness, and then eats the prey (similar to a Venus Flytrap). Apparently, this plant takes over a year to fully absorb large (read: human-sized) prey. So far, Tarvek and Zola have neglected to mention exactly how quickly death comes for a victim.
    • Captain Vole apparently experienced this when being pulled out of a Time Stop with experimental tech that hadn't quite been fine-tuned yet. He explains that he didn't really mind the pain, but that it felt like he was fighting, and losing, in the middle of a prolonged nightmare, where he couldn't stop the blows from coming and striking him and was too mad to stop fighting back futilely, unable to hit anything back. It all felt like hundreds of years of that, nonstop, and feeling every last minute of it; going by the fact he aged a lot during the incident, starting to resemble creatures of his species several centuries old, it's likely the hundreds of years were quite real. And while his mind survived fairly well, leaving him coherent and relatively sane enough to retell it all, he's still rather traumatized and lost many of the Jaeger's usual mental traits like a care for fine clothing and hats, and being a relentless Blood Knight (especially noticeable in his case, since he was so bloodthirsty the Jagers themselves kicked him out). It's not known how much of this is trauma and how much of this is simple maturity, however, as he's aged enough to qualify as a General. The rest make sure to fix the machinery in question after these tales, as everyone else they need to pull out is much more fragile physically and mentally.
  • This almost happened in The Gods of Arr-Kelaan, but the goddess of death personally intervened.
  • A manga link. It's from the artist who did the Idle Minds.
    • Not quite over, for those of you who thought you'd escape sane. (The pictures to go with the first strip's ending narration.)
    • Ian Samson is a big fan of illustrating "turned into an object" comics. He's done things like having the super-heroine Synthia Stretch trapped forever as a bouncy ball toy. A girl with clay-based shapeshifting powers losing her ability to control her form and being turned permanently into a clay urn. And possibly most disturbing, a girl who's witch sister has ruined her life by constantly turning her into various articles of clothing. The witch eventually assumes that because she has no friends and no social life, she must prefer being an object, and decides to stop turning her back into a human. Unable to complain, seeing as how clothes don't have vocal cords, her sister spends the rest of her life trapped as one article of clothing after another.
    • Being one of his works, City of Reality deals with a lot of this. Magic World is full of people who, thanks to Hinto Ama, have been transformed into all manner of things, from turtles to clothing to water. At least there's the Manumitor, who goes around saving as many of these victims as he can.
      • In fact, in this work, the trope seems slightly subverted as usually the author's works seem to heavily imply that a person will be stuck forever. In City of Reality, it is mostly heavily implied everything will be okay eventually.
  • Jack by David Hopkins has a short story about a guy who gets offered a very nice apartment for free, ostensibly so he can convince other prospective buyers. The apartment at first seems to be everything promised, but strange things start to happen. He hears strange moaning sounds in the neighboring apartment, and his girlfriend tells him that he can't leave. After inadvertently killing her, a duplicate shows up and tells him nothing in the apartment is real, and that his girlfriend has long since forgotten him and moved on to other guys. He takes a sledgehammer and breaks down the wall to find the strange moaning, and finds some sort of strange muck monster that limply chases after him, and he barely escapes through the hole in the wall, which closes itself. The person who sold him the apartment shows up and demands to know what's going on. He is told that the truth is just outside the front door, but he won't like it, and there is no going back to the nice apartment he once had. He ignores this and opens the door anyway. He is instantly reduced to a pathetic thing that he saw in the other apartment, too weak to even stand up. The apartment interior turns into plain wood similar to a shack, with nothing but a chair for him to sit on, and the only sound he can make is the moaning he heard earlier. It turns out he's in a particularly unpleasant part of Hell. And he stays there.
  • In Namesake, Selva, the Wicked Witch of the East, turned the Munchkin King into a hat box and Selva herself is turned into a purse
  • The NSFW webcomic Oglaf couples this trope with Fridge Horror in one of its strips. A one-off character has a cursed penis that turns people to marble.
  • In Sluggy Freelance Jane, who's got the "you can live forever, but your body can still decay" kind of immortality. She eventually becomes simply Zombie-Head-On-A-Stick, a barely articulate head-without-a-body, filled with an all-consuming hunger she can never satisfy, and doomed to be the plaything of bored idiots. However, at least she'll eventually decay away completely if she doesn't satisfy her hunger for brains... it'll just take a very long time.
    • While Jane's fate is played for laughs and she might not even mind her new existence so much in the end (it's not really evident), a version happens to another much more sympathetic character without any especially magical or science-fiction-y means: Kept alive indefinitely by advanced medical technology but too hurt to be healed or for the pain to even stop, suffering from the same extreme agony permanently whenever conscious. It makes the "must scream" part literal.
  • This sort of thing happens way too much in The Wotch. Scott has been transformed into an immobile, conscious statue three times so far, though it didn't last very long. Rosetta wasn't so lucky, as she got turned into a statue by a crazy wizard, kept that way for some time, then released after said wizard's Heel–Face Turn—but then she was turned back into a statue by a basilisk without anyone knowing what happened to her. It's been mentioned that some statues in museums and mannequins in department stores are transformed people. And some people consider this a humorous comic.
    • This also almost happened to a demon early in the comic's run...before the Big Bad and The Dragon rescued him.
  • In The Zombie Hunters, the Basilisk zombie possesses an automatically paralysing bioluminescent gaze. Any human that locks eyes with a Basilisk will suffer a painful seizure and become immobilized. The victim then has no choice but to lie there helplessly as the zombie closes the distance to feed. Slowly. Starting with the face.
  • Start of Darkness, one of the prequels to The Order of the Stick, initially plays this straight, when Xykon traps the soul of Lirian the druid in a magic gem, raises her corpse as a zombie, and threatens to feed the zombie to an ogre, thinking that it will drive her insane. Later subverted when he traps the soul of her lover Dorukan in the same gem. Because Evil Cannot Comprehend Good, he accidentally creates a You Are Worth Hell situation instead.
    • Later, in the main comic, Crystal. After Haley kills her, Bozzok turns her into a flesh golem, spending extra money to make her self-aware and retain her memories and skills, but not her lack of focus. The new Crystal exists in constant pain, and is entirely focused on killing Haley, whose fault she thinks her state was. When Haley points out that it was really Bozzok's fault, Crystal turns against him and kills him.
  • The Helmsman from Homestuck. Formerly the Ψiioniic, ancestor of Sollux and follower of The Signless, he was captured by Her Imperial Condescension when the Signless' rebellion failed. She extended his lifespan indefinitely with her magic, lashed him to her spaceship, and used him as a living battery to massively overclock her ships power. He exists in a state of undying, perpetual agony for thousands of years before he is killed by The Vast Glub.
    • It also happens to Caliborn, half of Gamzee, and Arquiussprite, at least for a while. In an alternate timeline, all eight children have a grand final showdown with Caliborn, which ultimately ends with Dirk using his powers as the Prince of Heart to tear Caliborn's soul out of his body. Unable to permanently kill him, Dirk seals his body inside Lil Cal, but Arquiussprite and half of Gamzee's corpse are caught in the crossfire and accidentally trapped as well. Roxy then banished Lil Cal into the void, allowing it to connect to all other instances of Lil Cal scattered throughout Paradox Space. They eventually escape, fused together as Lord English.
    • It's implied that this is also the fate of Lord English himself. At this point, Caliborn has already destroyed the grandfather clock that would decide if his death is heroic or just. Given that God Tiers like him are invincible unless their death is either heroic or just, this basically gives him unconditional immortality and makes him invincible. The last we see of him, he's being thrown into a black hole, completely deprived of his First Guardian powers because of the destruction of the Green Sun, his loyal minions dead, and with no way to escape.
  • In Verlore Geleentheid, Jane Onoda was in cryogenic stasis for 10,000 years, but due to a computer glitch, she and the others on her ship were conscious the whole time. The only reason she stayed (somewhat) sane is that the ship's computer kept her occupied with battle scenarios against the species that nuked her homeworld.
  • Nedroid: Described in the Alt Text of this comic:
    "It grows from here. Reginald begins reducing more and more actions to simple lines of dialogue: "nod", "dance", "laugh", "love". Eventually his muscles atrophy; his body wastes away. Only the left hemisphere of his brain remains alive, the spoken word itself reduced to mere thought. And once Beartato earns his master's degree and invents a brain-to-speech synthesizer, that final thought is at last heard: "Weep a single tear for the life I have wasted."
  • Schlock Mercenary had an AI disconnected from the mainframe, but still left running, with no sensor input and no way to control anything or alert anybody to her predicament. AIs in that universe operate so fast that they don't experience time the same way as humans do; a few seconds of real time is like millennia for them. This AI is left in this state for several hours, which seem like endless eons to her, while everyone else is unaware of her situation. By the time she is finally reconnected, she has gone murderously insane.
    Tagii: Sartre said "Hell is other people". Lucky human. He was never alone.
  • In Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger when neural templating was first developed the researchers were thrilled to discover that the "snapshot" they'd taken was conscious so they eventually hooked up inputs and outputs to it in order to communicate. Then they heard the screams.
  • Played for laughs in Commander Kitty when a MOUSE unit is accidentally beamed into space and left there to plot revenge. It winds up back on board through a freak accident.
  • MS Paint Masterpieces: Played for laughs for a few strips in the second game adaptation when Reset Man's AI is placed in a storage device.
  • The backstory to at least one character in morphE. Between days there are dream sequences that reveal piece-by-piece how the seedlings came to be inside crates. One character in the second sequence was depicted as hanging by their wrists against a wall, too weak to do much more than kick off the wall and hit their back on the rocks behind. Their narration explained that their stomach was all but eating itself from hunger and their throat was too dry for them to speak beyond a husky whisper. The only candidates for this trauma both spent over 4 months between their kidnapping and escape. Hanging. Alone. Unable to die.
  • Done in this strip from Channel Ate.
  • The Adventures of Sue and Kathryn! gives us the Haunted Tree, which keeps telling Kathryn (to her frustration, as she's asking the tree for its opinion on other matters) to "release me from this existence".
  • Slightly Damned has Hell, a place of eternal personalized torment. It isn't that bad when you consider you could also end up in the Ring of the Slightly Damned, an almost entirely empty wasteland of nothing but rocks and mountains. And the only three known occupants have left the Ring, one dead and the other two in the world of the living.
  • Deep Rise has Servitors, macrofauna of the surface (including "plains apes"), captured, vivisected and rebuilt. much of what we humans would use mechanical devices and computers for, the Nobles prefer an organic solution. Some of them retain a bit of their former minds.
  • In the Nuzlocke comic Goddamn Critical Hits, this is what being a Cascoon is like. You can't move, speak, eat, or do anything until you evolve. Dusty the Dustox was one, and it's the primary reason for his loathing of Poké Balls ("I have spent half of my life in a dark, cramped jail, and I do not intend to inflict that on myself ever again!").
  • Spacetrawler: How the Spacetrawlers are made.
  • Sandra and Woo: When Larisa is filling out a contract with the Devil she finds a space for "three things I wish upon my worst enemy". She goes with "immobility, insomnia, and immortality."


Alternative Title(s): Inescapable Fate Worse Than Death

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