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Another Man's Terror

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Cassandra: I watched... him die.
Lady Shiva: So? You mean to tell me — Ah. Your gift. Reading your opponents' intentions. You saw him die... as he saw it.
Cassandra: Terror, then... nothing.

This trope takes place when one character is thrown into the shoes of a dead man to experience his final moments. Either the player reads a pamphlet about Timmy's brutal slaying by a monster which then comes to try to kill the player, or he has to complete a dead man's task, witnessing and experiencing what killed the person before him.

Related to Apocalyptic Log and Mook Horror Show. Compare Psychic Glimpse of Death, where the terror is happening in the present moment.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • During one arc of Ghost Hunt, the main character Mai (who is a sensitive) undergoes a psychic dream where she is forced to experience the last moments of a maid who was murdered in the house her group is investigating. She is woken up at the last possible instant, and it is likely that she would have really died otherwise.
  • Hidan in Naruto is an immortal who uses a technique that causes a target to suffer any wounds inflicted upon Hidan. He usually tortures them by slowly hurting himself before delivering a fatal blow which he, being immortal, survives. The link causes him to experience the full pain and terror of their final moments. However, he actually enjoys the experience.
  • In Shaman King, Yoh Asakura and his friends relive over and over the final moments of a group of Apache warriors who were killed by Hao in his previous life when they refused to join him. In an unusual twist, they do so intentionally, since they're trying to see as much as possible to find the right path to their destination, even though the experience is horrific to both the living and the spirits.

    Comic Books 
  • Batgirl (2000): Cassandra Cain was raised to be the perfect killing machine. As a child, she never realized what it meant or what death even was — until the first time she kills and her ability to read people's body language means that she experiences the man's death as if it were her own. She then proceeds to become a Phlebotinum Rebel, finally becoming Batgirl.
  • In Ghoul Goblin, Harry soulgazes a dying man to learn what he knows and feels death beginning to suck him down too. The victim's last thoughts warn him to remain behind and protect his surviving siblings.
  • The very weird comic The Upturned Stone by Scott Hampton, features a group of boys who, on Halloween, eat a pumpkin pie made from a pumpkin that grew out of the grave of a murdered child. They all begin to dream of his murder — as if experiencing it! Worse, they know who the killer was, but who would believe it?

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Avatar: The Way of Water: Quaritch (now an artificial Na'vi body with Quaritch's personality and most of his memories) finds the video logs of his human self's final moments the camera shorting out just as Neytiri's arrows hit his mech.
  • Brainstorm ends with the protagonist viewing a recording of a woman's natural death, and nearly getting dragged down into the afterlife himself.
  • Played with in Dark City (1998). John Murdoch was implanted with the memories of a murderer as part of an experiment to see whether he will then proceed to commit further murders. Will being out in another's position lead him to react the same way?
  • In Source Code, Jake Gyllenhall is mentally dropped into the shoes of a train passenger in the eight minutes before said passenger dies in a terrorist attack, with the task to find the planted bomb that destroyed the train the first time around. He has to go through the same eight minutes a lot during the course of the film.
  • In Strange Days, a full-sensory recording of a thrill-seeker's stunt ends in his (unintended) death. A dealer in black-market sensations views it, gets to the finish, and then rips the playback-cap off his head in revulsion, yelling at the would-be seller that he doesn't deal in snuff.
  • In The Thing (1982), MacReady and the rest of the U.S. number-31 crew go through this after Garry shoots the last of the Norwegians from Thule station.

  • Bordertown: In Finder, psychically gifted Orient discovers that laying hands on a murder victim's body enables him to dream their deaths.
  • Discworld:
    • In The Truth, Mr. Tulip is given what amounts to post-life therapy by Death, who shows him the last moments of the numerous people he killed.
    • In Unseen Academicals, Glenda Sugarbean is shown a vision of the last moments of a soldier who was slain in battle by an orc. She manages to see enough to notice that the orcs were being driven into battle by men with whips, which means they aren't naturally vicious like people have come to think they are.
  • In Excession, the GCU Grey Area uses this as karmic punishment for a retired soldier who was involved in a genocidal campaign, by making him relive the agonizing deaths of his victims until the stress kills him.
  • Hurog: In Dragon Bones, touching a stone of an ancient, ruined temple causes Ward to briefly see through the eyes of one of the last priests of that temple. His sister Ciarra gets to be possessed by what is implied to be the god of that temple later on. There is also Oreg, who is immortal, but still able to make his traumatic memories real. It hurts no one but himself, but Ward is pretty horrified when he hears the sound of a whip and sees Oreg's clothes and then skin being ripped apart. It is explicitly said that the punishment would have killed Oreg if it had been done to him by the one person who could kill him.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • In Book II, the Fellowship finds a journal in Moria chronicling how Balin and the other dwarves were besieged by Orcs and could not escape. The last entry says "They are coming." The Fellowship is ambushed by Orcs shortly afterwards.
    • In The Return Of The King, after Denethor burns himself to death while holding the Palantír of Minas Tirith, normally the only thing it will ever show someone trying to use it is Denethor's burning hands. The text states that it takes incredible effort of will and focus to force it to reveal anything else.
  • Used to grim and varied effect in the story-within-a-story in Thomas Ligotti's "Notes On The Writing Of Horror: A Story".
  • In Otherland, Orlando has used VR simulations that play out fatal accidents or other forms of death. There's an urban legend that they're made by monitoring someone's actual death, but this is dismissed as ridiculous as someone would have to be loaded up with expensive recording devices in advance. He has reason to be preoccupied with the experience.
  • Ghosts in Pact have the ability to do induce this trope in others by forcing them to experience their feelings as they approached their death, which, as psychic impressions of trauma, is effectively all that they are. These can include frostbite, suffocation, and having your legs crushed in a car accident and slowly bleeding out.
  • The Skins of Dead Men has this right in the title — a particular medicine, together with skin grafts, brings dreams of what happened to the skin's previous owners.
  • The War Against the Chtorr: When Ted joins the Telepathy Corps, he runs taped experiences of other telepaths including the many possible deaths you can experience, from dying in plane crashes to being Eaten Alive by a Chtorran worm.
  • White Night plays with this. When Harry gets someone to magically witness a murder victim's last moments, it turns out she was killed by a White Court vampire, and the viewer got a rather different impression from "terror". Dresden, considering the kind of things he tends to see, considers this terribly unfair.
  • World of the Five Gods: In The Curse of Chalion, Cazaril prays for a death miracle. If it succeeds, it will kill both himself and his target. After he completes the ritual, he hallucinates that he is his victim, who chokes to death on his own tongue. The next morning Cazaril is disappointed to wake up, until he learns that Dondo did indeed miraculously die at that moment, in the way Cazaril dreamed. However, every night thereafter, he is haunted by Dondo's ghost, as a second miracle has kept both Cazaril and Dondo in this world.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Blake's 7, Season 3, Episode 12, "Death-Watch" Tarrant's brother takes part in a "Combat by Champion" battle, whose rules allow those watching the battle on-screen to participate by wearing small discs on their foreheads that psychically link them with the combatants. Poor Del has to personally experience his brother's last moments.
  • In Stargate SG-1, Colonel Mitchell is drugged and has Fake Memories of committing the murder placed in his head, and then left at the scene of the crime.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • In "Ex Post Facto", the crew encounters a race that punishes murderers by implanting the final memories of the victim (which they also use as evidence) into the convict for him to experience at regular intervals. Then Tom Paris gets framed for murder.
    • In "Flesh and Blood", some holograms used for Hunting the Most Dangerous Game put the Doctor through a simulated hunt so that he can know what it felt like.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Judgment Night", a Nazi U-boat captain is forced to experience being on a ship that he torpedoed for all eternity.

  • Jonathan Coulton's "Creepy Doll" song has the main character swap places with the doll just as it is being burned in a fire.
  • The title necklace in King Diamond's "The Eye" has this effect, as its wearer gets to go through its last owner's demise. The latest person to try this gets to know how being burned at the stake feels like.
  • "Postmorterm Perception" by Malignancy involves a person receiving an organ transplant reliving the experience of their donor's death.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • The belief that one must burn to ash the snake one killed: the other snake might glance into the dead snake's eyes, witness the dead snake's final moment, and exact revenge upon the person that killed the fellow snake.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Geist: The Sin-Eaters: What happens to a Sin-Eater when they are resurrected (the second time and after) by their geist: somebody else dies in their stead, they experience the unfortunate person's demise, and then the Sin-Eater finds themselves alive once more, having shoved their death on someone else. This is a traumatic experience that hits the Karma Meter hard, and if it happens too often, the Sin-Eater will end up disconnected from their geist, with both descending into insanity.

    Video Games 
  • Cryostasis has this as a regular gameplay mechanic whenever you walk up to a corpse that isn't a zombie. In a subtle variation of Set Right What Once Went Wrong, you need to complete whatever task the dead man was trying to do in order to clear the Broken Bridge in front of you. Also, this somehow saves the dead man's soul from whatever entity is taking over the ship.
  • The Dark Eye (not to be confused with Drakensang: The Dark Eye) is an obscure horror game based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. In it, you not only are living through a tale worthy of Poe — you're also subject to experiencing three Poe tales ("The Tell-Tale Heart", "Berenice", and "The Cask of Amontillado") through both the eyes of the killer... and their unlucky victim. Enjoy watching yourself get smothered and chopped up by someone who is driven mad by your eye, getting Buried Alive and then having your fiancée pull all your teeth out, and getting slowly bricked into a grotto while you're forced to watch.
  • In Dead Space, you encounter a dying man who fought his way through the ship. He gives you a note and then dies. You have to finish what he started, scary beasts chasing you and all.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, this comes up a few times. In one sidequest, you come across two corpses and one scared Adventurer who all have notes speaking of the same fabled treasure. Obviously, all except the extremely freaked survivor met with gruesome ends. You can finish the quest by confronting the author of the notes.
    • In another sidequest, the Player Character can stumble upon a corpse in Denerim's back streets. The man was a templar who stumbled upon a cabal of bloodmages. You can then clear out the warehouse and finish what he started.
    • Yet another example occurs in a quest for the Mage's collective. One man sets out to find his wayward apprentice, but finds that the apprentice has turned into a horrifying abomination. The player character finds his corpse, then is attacked by the same abomination and must defeat it lest they end up the same way.
  • Eternal Darkness: Anyone who reads the Tome of Eternal Darkness experiences every previous reader's interaction with the book. Reading the tome doesn't typically end well so the player plays through many people's last moments.
  • There's a lot of this in Fallout 3. Most of the vaults have logs and computers which tell you you're going through the same thing the occupants experienced, as well as the Dunwich Building, which has logs scattered throughout chronicling one man's descent into madness as he encounters exactly what you encounter. Then there's Vault 106, where the Lone Wanderer has hallucinations throughout the vault.
  • This is the entire point of Final Fantasy XIII's Missions. The party has the option of completing the Focuses of other, failed l'Cie, who have been transformed into Cie'th Stones, doomed to eternal suffering and pleading for someone to help them, to kill the demons they were tasked with destroying yet could not. (Being a l'Cie really sucks).
  • In Halo: Combat Evolved, the Master Chief watches a helmet-cam recording of Sgt Johnson's squad being overrun by the Flood — immediately before they attack you, naturally.
  • This is Daniel Lazarski's job in >OBSERVER_, by plugging himself into the minds of citizens and scouring their memories for information. Dan's perspective of this often plays back in a glitchy, disjointed manner, showing their worst memories and negative feelings. One such example is a citizen who spent time in an abusive prison for selling Feed.
  • In the beginning of Penumbra: Black Plague, you can listen to a tape of someone talking about the Tuurngait, only for it to turn into screaming as one of them attacks him. Shortly after, you encounter the same one...
  • Alex Mercer of [PROTOTYPE] is a horrific Anti-Hero who gains the memories of the people that he consumes. He comments on this now and then (apparently not finding it pleasant) and in the ending narration, he describes seeing the dying moments of his thousands of victims every time he closes his eyes.
  • Return of the Obra Dinn: This is how the Player Character uncovers the fate of the ship's crew. The mysterious watch allows them to see and hear the moment of each character's death.
  • Part of the premise of Soul Hackers is this. By doing so, you learn vital clues that help you solve the present-day mystery. For example, during one such "Vision Quest" you play a character who sets a password that your present-day self can then use.