It's the end of the world... But not as you know it.
Civilisations in fiction often have a habit of being consumed by nuclear war, destroyed by asteroid strikes, massacred by alien invaders, overwhelmed by the living dead, devoured by out-of-control nanomachines, or annihilated when their planet blows up. But in this case, the apocalypse is on acid, and things are just plain weird.
And in the resulting world, reality is well and truly out to lunch. Time itself may have ceased to function, incomprehensible creatures roam the ruined streets, and the landscape has fused together into bizarre forms which cannot be understood by the human eye, simply looking at which can drive the strongest-willed insane in mere moments.
It may have been caused by a sufficiently dangerous Reality Warper, Eldritch Abomination or God of Chaos, the energy of Primordial Chaos somehow leaking into reality, powerful magic gone very, very wrong, or perhaps arrogant scientists messing around with Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. Often, however, there is no explanation available, and the characters, no matter how intelligent or skilled, can't change a damn thing about it.
Naturally, this can be the outcome of the Cosmic Horror Story. The end result might also be a World of Chaos. A Sub-Trope of Apocalypse How and The End of the World as We Know It. Compare Signs of the End Times, when strange things start happening before the apocalypse.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion has a very complicated plot involving multiple human factions trying to cause the end of the world and reshape it into their image, all the while Eldritch Abominations called Angels are just trying to end all life regardless of the method. A series of events known as the Impacts were all nearly apocalyptic themselves, as each one irrevocably altered the laws of physics of reality itself. End of Evangelion shows us one such possible apocalypse, as when an angel merges with Adam, all life just turns into the vaguely defined LCL fluid that is used inside the cockpits that are needed to pilot EVA units and apparently becomes a Hive Mind. The endings of the various incarnations of the franchise have left a LOT to debate and interpret, as nobody can seem to agree on just what the hell they just witnessed.
- Providence: The Elder Gods of H. P. Lovecraft come to Earth in the last two issues, resulting in a slow and steady breakdown of reality itself. Nightmarish creatures stalk the streets, the landscape changes into impossible configurations, and humanity adjusts to this new world with a resigned weariness, knowing that their previous life was a dream and this new nightmare is now the everyday.
- Annihilation (2018): A localised version, caused by a meteor falling to Earth and somehow creating the Eldritch Location known as Area X. Inside, living things are endlessly twisted and mutated beyond recognition to create a iridescently beautiful but incredibly dangerous landscape. If the Area had been allowed to continue spreading, a full-scale example of this trope would certainly be in effect.
- Cool World: Femme Fatale Holli Would manages to climb to the roof of the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas. There, she attains "the spike," which is acting as a cork that keeps the Cool World bottled. She removes it, and immediately bizarre animated characters and props start spilling into reality. Random people are transformed into cartoonish caricatures, residents of Toon Town spill into the streets spreading mayhem, and they bring their Toon Physics with them. This cartoon-ization gets worse by the minute.
- Friend of the World: The population has been decimated by a global nuclear war. Underground is the only option for survival but this trope is significant below the surface. In a bunker, some that have survived have mutated into disturbing, flesh-fusing creatures that merge with the living while reality, fantasy, insanity and surrealism take full-effect.
- Ghostbusters (1984): Discussed when the Ghostbusters promise the Mayor that if they aren't released to stop Gozer, New York is going to experience some "real Wrath-of-God type stuff," and pull out whatever sounds worst:
Ray: Fire and brimstone raining down from the sky! Rivers and seas boiling!
Egon: Forty years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston: The dead rising from the grave!
Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats livin' together... mass hysteria!
- Mystery Men: The Big Bad's doomsday weapon is the Psycho-Frackulator, a machine that physically and lethally warps reality into twisted and disturbing shapes. This is used on the imprisoned Captain Amazing with disturbing results, leaving a twisted and unrecognizable corpse. Later, it's turned on the city and causes mass destruction, though of a more mundane nature.
- Cthulhu Armageddon is a post-apocalyptic New Old West series that takes place in, as the title mentions, an apocalypse where the Great Old Ones woke up and are causing all kinds of mayhem. Among other side effects of this situation, the protagonist of the series becomes a Humanoid Abomination early on, although he remains a Pro-Human Transhuman and helps his friends.
- Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I.: Played for Laughs with 'The Big Uneasy': after an (elderly) virgin witch spills a drop of her blood on the Necronomicon, all sorts of supernatural beings including zombies, vampires, werewolves and good old Eldritch Abominations begin to manifest on Earth. Fortunately for mankind, most of them aren't evil.
- The Dark Tower: The ultimate goal of the Crimson King is no less than the complete destruction of the Dark Tower which binds all realities together. As his Breakers steadily destroy the beams holding the Tower in place, Roland's world "moves on," becoming a place where the compass points no longer stay in one place, mutant freaks and rogue robots roam and destroy, entire cities have become graveyards, and thinnies (holes between realities) are appearing everywhere. Roland, the last gunslinger, becomes the only hope of stopping the Crimson King and reversing the Tower's destruction.
- "Everything's Fine": Earth is in the middle of an unspecified apocalypse, causing all manner of dangerously surreal transformations. The Moon is cracking, talking cadavers hang from the trees in the park, and schoolyard games can result in the children melding together into an amorphous flesh ball. Strangest of all, these horrors mostly target those who directly acknowledge them — so one's best hope of survival is to ignore the weirdness and insist that everything's fine.
- "Something Passed By": Well, something passed by the Earth and turned reality and physics as humanity knows them upside down and inside out. Water becomes like nitroglycerine, but gasoline becomes drinkable. Ground randomly becomes like quicksand and solidifies back just as randomly. Clouds rain stones or literal flesh and blood. Random enclosed areas completely consume every atom of air in them and refuse to let more in, turning them into pockets of hard vacuum. People age rapidly or in reverse, or spontaneously combust or have their brains leak out of their ears. Gravity randomly magnifies immensely at equally random points, creating "gravity howitzers" that destroy anything where they occur. At the end, there's a strange shimmering on the horizon moving forward that basically suggests that the bonds of reality have completely fallen apart and everything is ceasing to exist.
- Left Behind: The series details the steady destruction of the Earth in the apocalypse foretold (kind of) in the biblical book of Revelation, but having the events written down doesn't make them any less bizarre. All Christians on the planet vanish, leading to various judgements including a plague of demonic stinging locusts (whose victims are incapable of dying to ease their pain), massive shifts in weather, a huge earthquake, invisible-to-nonbelievers demon horsemen who slay a tenth of the remaining population, solar flares... and that doesn't include the actual Antichrist who gets possessed by Satan himself halfway through the Tribulation (who celebrates by riding a giant pig), or the part where Jesus shows up and slaughters an entire army by speaking. After that, humans and animals live together tranquilly, rivers have turned to milk, the survivors can live to be hundreds of years old (but without their youth), and humanity has collectively abandoned relationships and sexuality to spend eternity worshipping Jehovah. And they all lived happily ever after.
- The Minotaur: About three decades before the story, an unspecified accident in a research base in New Mexico permanently altered the world so that human dreams bleed into reality. Sleep is a confusing period of different people's dreams clashing and blending together, while the waking world is distorted by artifacts from people's subconsciouses manifesting into reality. People have developed the habit of carrying around cards stating their relationships to each other, as otherwise it's difficult to distinguish what really happened between them and what was simply dreamed, and ages become vague when much of your lived experience is dreamed. Most manifested dreams are simply phantoms, which only affect human perception, but a small subset of people's dreams are physically manifested into reality — which, due to their uncontrolled nature, can have terrifying and deadly effects.
- The Leftovers: Downplayed. The Sudden Departure happens, instantly disappearing a small percentage of the world's population... and they are never seen again and no answers come as to what happened. The world then appears to go on as normal, but as time passes, more and more strange things begin to happen: Nora is apparently healed from her intense grief by a single hug; a man who may be God gets mauled by a lion on a sex boat; Kevin Garvey comes back from the dead (multiple times); and numerous other very strange things happen. The series as a whole is mostly focused on trying to live a "normal" enough life in the face of a totally inexplicable apocalypse.
- Doctor Who: In the series 6 finale "The Wedding of River Song", River Song's refusal to kill the Doctor creates a time paradox that breaks reality. The result is a bizarre, twisted world in which all historical events are happening at once. Winston Churchill is now Holy Roman Emperor with a Silurian as his physician, Charles Dickens promotes his work on television, and pterodactyls are a common pest. This is undone when River Song agrees to resolve the paradox by killing a robot duplicate of the Doctor instead.
- The Magnus Archives: Season 5 takes place in one of these, where the rules of reality have been rewritten to maximize the fear felt by everyone. Death is impermanent (unless you end up in a domain of the End), there's a tower that can be seen from everywhere in the world somehow, travel times depend on the emotional arcs of the travelers instead of physical distance, going from London to Oxford and going back to London involved going through two completely different locations, one of which is completely flat and the other is a massive sheer drop, and the sky is a giant eye watching over everything.
- Gamma World: The 7th edition is set after the CERN Supercollider caused every possible timeline to merge into one, scattering bits of time and space all over a vast wasteland.
- Apex Construct: "The Shift" has scrambled buildings and ground together and dematerialized all animal life.
- Death Stranding: The titular event is a prime example: something disrupted the natural process of life and death, causing the Beached Things, Undead Abominations that can cause a nuclear-level explosion when they come into contact with corpses, to infest the world and push society to the brink of collapse. It's eventually revealed that the cause of the Death Stranding was experiments into the workings of "The Other Side" conducted on the orders of President Strand.
- The Elder Scrolls: The series holds in its backstory the concept of Towers, Cosmic Keystones raised in the Merethic Era and binding reality into linear time. Should they all fall, the setting would sink back into nonlinearity and take on the full aspect of all the trippy weirdness that, even now, occasionally bubbles to the surface. More than half of the towers have fallen already.
- Fallen London: The oft-mentioned "Liberation of Night" increasingly looks like one of these the more you advance into the lore, with light as a concept being removed from existence. The truth of it entails the complete destruction of all law, including the laws of nature and reality, and of both its creators (the Judgements) and their law-enforcing light. Those proposing it hardly see it as a cataclysm, finding the Judgements are too tyrannical to suffer and literally anything would be an improvement, but it's hard not to see it as an apocalypse all by itself.
- Splatoon 3: In the single player campaign "Return of the Mammalians", this is revealed to be the endgoal of Mr. Grizz, who is revealed to be a giant, grizzly bear. He started the Grizzco company in order to get Inklings and Octolings to gain the Golden Eggs from the Salmonids so he can use the eggs to create 'Fuzzy Ooze' when combined with his own fur. He plans to spread the ooze all over the planet Earth to transform all life on the planet and bring back the mammals, who have all gone extinct. In the bad ending where you don't stop him in time, we see his actions have caused an apocalypse-like situation, with many Inklings and Octolings turned into giant fuzzballs, and the later see the world being transformed into what is described as "a massive Fuzzball".
- Autodale: Humanity has fallen victim to something known as "The Withering". Exactly what it is, and what caused it, are both complete unknowns, but its effects include Gravity Screw, the spread of some sort of fungus-based sickness that merges people into the grass and vines which have grown to cover everything, and potentially mutating others into the reptilian monsters known as "Freaks". The only human community known to survive is the titular town, a Dystopia sustained only by the energy of a tortured, dying god.
- Skibidi Toilet Series: The videos follow a war between a race of evil disembodied heads living in moving toilets, which can seemingly convert humans into more of themselves, and an alliance of hardware-headed robots opposing them. Humanity is implied to be wiped out early in the conflict, leaving the two bizarre factions to war in the ruins of civilization.
- Awful Hospital: The Parliament's goal is to assimilate everything together into the Old Flesh and effectively reset the universe. They do so by messily connecting and severing zones, engineering their own carcinogen to infect everyone and everything, and setting up Perception Filters. Just like everything else in this comic, it's very Mind Screw-y.
- Echotale: The SHIFT caused the Underground, which was already a magical place beneath a mountain, to become a bizarre, bordering on Eldritch Location where the forests are made of letter boxes, snow is hot and lava is cold, the only flowers still around are the Echoflowers which call out messages from the SOULs trapped within them, and each area seems to have forgotten what laws of physics are supposed to apply in it, where its located and what it's made of.
- 8-Bit Theater: Discussed in the climax. Black Mage argues it might not actually be so bad for Chaos to win (because he might set the world on fire, but he might also turn it into cake, and there are more kinds of cake than there are fire so the odds are in cake's favour) and Chaos overhears and decides to start the "pastrylogical singularity".
Chaos: I mean, that's the kind of crazy, 'oh, man, look at that embodiment of chaos go nuts' thing people expect out of me. But they don't expect that. But they should. But can't. But should.
White Mage: Chaos, we will stop you.
Chaos: You know, I'm talking about turning your world into pure confectionary strata. It's a little beyond your ability to influence.
- End Stone: A Reality Warper scientist's experiment transformed the mundane world into a fantasy world with magic and humans taking the place of animal species like deer. The Mad Scientist wants to change the world back into something like our own - which, to the protagonists, is just as bizarre a change.
- Stand Still, Stay Silent: Downplayed. While the Rash Illness has technically resulted in a Zombie Apocalypse, Trolls, Beasts and Giants are far from your ordinary living dead — they're hideously mutated, ageless horrors which nobody can even begin to understand. Given that magic has awakened in the world as well, there's possibly an overlap, with many believing the illness to be a punishment from the Gods and nothing to prove them wrong.
- In C0DA, a graphic novel script by former The Elder Scrolls writer Michael Kirkbride, Numidium (a Humongous Mecha Reality Warper thought destroyed centuries in the past) reappears and causes the apocalyptic event known as "Landfall". Time is "unbound", Numidium uses its ability as the walking embodiment of refutation to bring "erasure" upon the Altmer (High Elves), it "stomps" Hammerfell into sea, and it outright kills several gods causing a myriad of bizarre effects on the universe while leaving Nirn explicitly uninhabitable. The survivors have fled to Nirn's moon Masser where they eek out a living under the surface.
- SCP Foundation: As you might expect, such events are rather common in the Foundationverse:
- SCP-093, "The Red Sea Object", is a red stone disc which, when attached to a mirror, opens a gateway into what appears to be an alternate Earth where something seriously wrong had gone down. Human civilisation appeared to possess high technology and was controlled by a totalitarian religious authority, but the test subjects and MTF agents the Foundation sent into this alternate reality found no people, animals or even corpses: only monstrous empty-faced torso creatures that hunted them down. Eventually, the Foundation find a relatively coherent explanation which describes how a godlike Humanoid Abomination known only as "He" provided the alternate humans with advanced tech and a substance known as His Holy Tears. This liquid apparently possessed healing properties but could also turn people into the faceless monsters, who eventually overwhelmed humanity.
- S. D. Locke's Proposal, "When Day Breaks", describes a nightmarish scenario in which, with no explanation or warning, the Sun started transforming any creature exposed to its rays (including those reflected through moonlight) into hideous, amorphous blobs of flesh that seek to drag any survivors into the sunlight. It's pretty bleak even by SCP standards.
- The "lolFoundation" canon is also a good example of this. A Reality Bender named Fritz somehow gained awareness of almost everything the Foundation kept hidden away, shattering the Masquerade so damn hard that Earth has become a World of Chaos.
"Welcome to a world without logic. A place of much pain, torment, with an extra helping of shock and awe. This is a Foundation that has failed without knowing, where inmates run the asylum and the last man has flown over the cuckoo's nest."
- Kane Pixels' The Backrooms: Downplayed, as it's not quite an apocalypse, and life for most people continues on as normal, but it's strongly implied that by successfully using Project KV31 to open a gateway into the Backrooms, ASYNC has somehow destabilised the very nature of reality, causing a steadily increasing number of people to find themselves trapped in the Eldritch Location.
- Adventure Time is set after a massive flood of magic saturated and reshaped Earth almost beyond recognition- the continents have rearranged, people are eaten by rainbows, candy has achieved sentience and created a potent empire, strange monsters stalk the world and alien gods reshape reality to their whims. However, it's been like that for 1000 years now, so that's all considered normal and it's the occasional remnants from the times before magic that are bizarre and alien.
- Gravity Falls: This is Bill Cipher's endgame: Weirdmageddon, where he will transform all of our reality into a Universe of Chaos so he and his Henchmaniacs can enjoy doing whatever the hell they want for all of eternity. Partially realized in the eponymous three-part Series Finale, where Bill destroys Gravity Falls and petrifies most of the townsfolk before being stopped by the Pines family.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: "The Return of Harmony" two-parter deals with the return of Discord, the spirit of chaos and disharmony, who wants to create a world where everything is novel and not bound down by the conventions of "physics" and "sense". He announces his entrance into the world with things like chocolate rain and rabbits growing deer-like legs; upon beating the main characters, he sets his vision into full motion: the ground becomes covered in purple chessboard patterns, the sky becomes bright green and then vivid purple, roads turn into soap, buildings float in midair, and the day and night come in at random.
- The Owl House: King frees The Collector and convinces them to stop the Draining Spell from killing the inhabitants of the Boiling Isles by convincing the childlike entity they need everyone alive to play a game called 'Owl House'. However, this leaves everyone at the mercy of The Collector, and he ends up turning the normally macabre island into a bright pastel wonderland that wouldn't look out of place in a child's play room. Star-shaped creatures also roam the lands, turning everyone they can find into puppets for use in the Collector's games.
The Collector: If we're going to play Owl House, we're gonna need an Owl House!
- The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest: Used as the framing device for "Other Space": a scientist opens a portal to another universe, but the hostile beings that come through start to transform Earth into a world they can inhabit.
- What If…? (2021): Reality breaks down in at least one episode. Planets and an entire universe dissolves after a Reality-Breaking Paradox.