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Cessation of Existence

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And that must end us, that must be our cure:
To be no more. Sad cure! For who would lose,
Though full of pain, this intellectual being,
Those thoughts that wander through eternity,
To perish, rather, swallowed up and lost
In the wide womb of uncreated night
Devoid of sense and motion?

This is when you die, and you cease to exist. No afterlife. No feeling, no thought, no perception, no existence. Your existence — everything you were — simply disappears like a popped soap bubble.

The cessation of existence is not a lovely Fluffy Cloud Heaven or a terrible Fire and Brimstone Hell. You know nothing, you feel nothing, you are nothing. If you cease to exist and are gone forever, you have no knowledge of anything, not even of your own death or the life you lived before. In other words, permanent and total unconsciousness. Even that is a woefully inadequate comparison, since even the unconscious can still dream. The term most often used to describe this state of affairs is either "nonexistence" or "oblivion".

This is fairly inconceivable to those who exist, as not-existing and existing are somewhat mutually exclusive. The idea/belief here is that even after death you'll never know or realize you're dead and that there's no afterlife (even if you've believed in one), meaning the two examples above still don't quite give an accurate impression of what it would be like. Then again, it wouldn't be like anything. Perhaps a good way to think about it is like this: try and remember what it was like before you were born (belief in reincarnation notwithstanding).

Perhaps the greatest Primal Fear imaginable,note  and one that is arguably not unique to humans (although other animals feel it on a much more instinctual level). It also easily qualifies as one of the quintessential kinds of Existential Horror. However, some people find comfort in this idea, believing that any eternal afterlife would inevitably end up being unbearably boring, regardless of whether it's a Fluffy Cloud Heaven or Fire and Brimstone Hell.

In some settings, this is the default state of the dead. In others, it's a violation of the natural order. In still others, it's a fate some dead are naturally destined for, but not all. If this is a universal or common fate, it can provide the motive for an Immortality Seeker to try to live forever.

Not to be confused with The Nothing After Death, where you still exist, if only as a mere shade floating between nothing and nowhere. Also not to be confused with Fading Away — that's when you die and your body ceases to exist.

Compare Ret-Gone, which is when a character not only ceases to exist, but ceases to have ever existed. Also compare Apocalypse How: Class Z, which is where this becomes the fate of everything everywhere. This can be a result from Deader than Dead. Many examples of the Artificial Afterlife are built either out of fear of this or to try to avoid it.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Death Note, Ryuk tells Light that since he's used the Death Note, he can go neither to heaven nor hell, but instead "Mu", or nothingness. At the end of the series, a flashback that shows the entirety of that scene occurs, where Light deduces that Mu isn't exclusive to Death Note users; there's no afterlife for anyone. This is confirmed onscreen by Ryuk, as well as by the Rules of the Death Note shown between chapters, Word of God, and an Eye Catch in the anime. While this could alternatively entail The Nothing After Death, the Japanese meaning of "Mu" can be interpreted in a When Is Purple sense, leaning more toward this trope.
  • In D.Gray-Man, it's stated that this is what's believed to happen to the soul of an akuma who is destroyed by any means other than through the use of Innocence.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • The series has an afterlife, but according to Goku, if Vegeta (who retained his body in the afterlife to help fight Majin Buu) was killed by Pure Buu, he would cease to exist.
    • Android 16 is fully mechanical, so when Cell destroyed him in Dragon Ball Z's Cell arc, he had no soul to be restored.
    • Some types of fusions are permanent (i.e. Nail and Kami-sama who were assimilated by Piccolo), and apparently even their souls fuse and they stay fused in the afterlife. Similarly, if one of the parts of a fusion is gone, the fused being can no longer be formed (such as with Evil Buu case).
    • Dragon Ball Super establishes that a God of Destruction is capable of destroying someone's soul along with body, as demonstrated with erasing Dr Mashirito despite him being a ghost. Beerus later also does it to original timeline Zamasu, simply erasing any trace of his existence in the blink of an eye. Zen'o seems capable of doing this to entire universes (and by extension their afterlife), as demonstrated by erasing what remained of the immortal Merged Zamasu and the future timeline he corrupted, as well as the universes that lost in the Tournament Of Power (though the latter were eventually restored by 17).
  • In the Monster Rancher anime, becoming a Lost Disc and Monsters fusing together are portrayed as this.
  • Oshi no Ko initially appears to have an afterlife, as Aquamarine and Ruby both have fully-remembered past lives. After Aqua asked the Crow Girl if his murdered mother also reincarnated, she explains almost everyone's souls are destroyed after death. Aqua and Ruby's "reincarnation" was essentially their souls being placed in newborn bodies that never had souls.
  • In Shakugan no Shana, this is basically what happens whenever one's Power of Existence is lost (usually after being consumed by a Crimson Lord). If one's Power of Existence dwindles and fades away, they become increasingly lethargic and slow to react, while their presence starts to go by unnoticed by others. Eventually, they just vanish, and everything continues as though they never existed at all.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, this is what happens if someone who is already dead is somehow killed. In addition, certain creatures can eat a person's soul and cause them to cease to exist.
  • Bleach:
    • There is a wheel of reincarnation at work in this story. Souls born into the World of the Living die and pass into the Soul Society. They live there for a period of time, then die again and are finally reincarnated back into the World of the Living as a new lifeform. There are some souls born into Soul Society. When those souls die, they also move on through the reincarnation cycle. Even if a soul is interrupted in this cycle by becoming a hollow, the hollow can still be cleansed to return to the cycle and pass on to Soul Society peacefully. Then there are Quincies. Their power does not cleanse hollows. It destroys them. The soul is not only destroyed but will never return to the reincarnation and therefore vanishes for good. In other words, the Quincies don't just destroy the current life of the soul, they're destroying all the soul's future lives as well. The story has stated that Quincies are unique in being the only ones capable of destroying the soul. Their reason to do it is because the Hollows can destroy their souls by merely infecting them. It's later revealed that the truth is actually an aversion. All Quincies and anything killed by a Quincy are infected with a portion of their king Yhwach's power, which inevitably returns to him along with the infected soul upon death.
    • Supposedly, anyone who dies a second time in Soul Society reincarnates back into the living world. But how do they know? It makes you wonder if it's not just a belief, and they don't really know what happens. In the case of souls destroyed by Quincy, normally a Hollow destroyed by a Shinigami goes to Soul Society, while those destroyed by Quincy don't. The idea of the soul being destroyed seems to be an assumption.
    • People killed in the living world go to Soul Society, and those who die in Soul Society reincarnate in the living world without any memory. However, souls of Humans who commited sins are sent to Hell, and tormented forever. Doesn't this means eventually everyone will go to Hell? Existence is endless test, those who succeed will be tested again, and those who fail don't get a second chance.
    • Left unclear in all of this is what happens to souls that are consumed by Hollows. When a Hollow consumes enough souls to evolve into a Menos, the souls will fight for dominance. But nothing has ever been said about what happens when one of them wins out. Are the rest still in there as distinct souls, or is their individuality completely wiped away forever? Since we've never seen a Hollow's soul(s) arriving in Soul Society after being purified, there's no way to know. This may be one of the many things that Bleach borrows from Japanese Mythology and folklore; for example, it was common in Shinto practices to believe that most "common" spirits or ghosts are absorbed into larger ones, such as unimportant ancestors or branch family members losing any individuality and becoming part of the family spirit as a whole.
  • In Fairy Tail, this is Mard Geer's plan to kill Zeref. Since he's essentially immortal and thus incapable of dying, the best way to deal with him is to remove the very concept of life and death entirely and erase him from the fabric of existence altogether. He even developed a technique specifically to do this.
  • In Durarara!!, this is what Izaya fears above all else. This is why he plans to initiate Ragnarok. His hope is to create a war only he can win, thus earning a place in Valhalla, but he'll take an eternity of torment in Hell so long as it means still existing.
  • Although souls in Fullmetal Alchemist demonstrably exist, they do not appear to be immortal, and instead disintegrate after death just as a person's body decomposes. They can remain "in tact" by being jammed into a Philosopher's Stone, but eventually reach the same end state when its power is exhausted. Granted, the assessment of where souls go after death comes from people of the largely areligious country of Amestris. The Ishvallan religion appears to believe in some other afterlife, and the way alchemy treats and views souls may be part of why they forbid it. However, the manga ends with a sequence showing Trisha and Hohenheim observing the epilogue from the afterlife.
  • In "Long Dream" from the Junji Ito Kyoufu Manga Collection, the terminally ill girl Mami is terrified of this imminently happening to her. She is ultimately saved from this fate by being "treated" with the crystals from Mukoda's corpse, possibly allowing her to enter a state of eternal existence in dreams.
  • Vinland Saga takes place in the Viking Age and many viking warriors believe they will be taken to the afterlife by the Valkyries if they died in combat. There is big battle in the last third of the story. A Mook is mortally wounded, already having lost his sight, hearing and the feeling of his body. As he lies dying, we are shown his last thoughts. At first he's calmly waiting for the Valkyries in the silent darkness, but after while he get's nervous and later panics, having realized there a no Valkyries and no afterlife. As he slowly fades away, he wants to warn his comrades of this and his very last thought is that he doesn't want to die. Then he is gone.
  • In William S. Burroughs The Western Lands, he claims that the US Guvernment nkows that souls exist, and that to reduce soul overpopulation - 'alleviate an escalating soul glut' - they, under false pretenses, developed the only thing on Earth capable of destroying a soul: the atomic bomb. There were hiccups - some very badly injured, very angry ghosts from Hiroshima sought revenge, so 100% efficient soul-killer nukes were developed after some trial-and-error (a major installation had to be nuked after a nasty incident with the incandescent ghost of a purple-assed babboon).

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    Comic Books 
  • This was the primary function of the Ultimate Annihilator, the weapon created by Robotnik Prime in the End Game arc of Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics). Robotnik planned to use it to not only defeat the Freedom Fighters, but wipe them and their home from existence. It worked so well, in fact, that when Snively sabotaged it and it annihilated Robotnik instead of Knothole the whole Universe was thrown into chaos when he was removed from it.
  • In Mike Carey's Lucifer, the title character makes his own cosmos with no afterlife. When he destroys the man he creates for disobeying his one command not to serve him, Lucifer says, "Did the ten thousand years before thy birth trouble thee? Well, no more will the ten thousand years after thy death."
  • In the Marvel Universe, this is the forte of the Cosmic Entity known as Oblivion. His sister Death claims anyone who actually dies. People claimed from him are subject to either this trope, Ret-Gone, Deader than Dead, or some other type of Fate Worse than Death.
  • In The Sculptor, David is willing to give his life for his art. Along comes Death and shows him the void that awaits him after death, represented by two pages of blank white paper. David is freaked out by what he sees, since his mind could barely comprehend the absence itself, but he strikes a bargain with Death anyway.
  • During Day of Vengeance, Ragman tries to attack absorb Eclipso into his suit of rags, but her resistance creates a shockwave that ends up destroying hundreds of the evil souls already trapped there, causing them to simply cease to exist. This sends Ragman into a brief Heroic BSoD; as much as he despised all those souls trapped in his suit, he believed that they still deserved a chance to redeem themselves.
  • For things and beings that didn't make it before (thanks to the Multiversal collapse, courtesy of the Beyonders), during (thanks to simply being killed) and after (more importantly, this is the deciding one) the course of events of Marvel's Secret Wars (2015).
  • The fate of reality, courtesy of the Anti-Monitor, according to the Amazonian prophecy, in DC's Darkseid War.
  • Wanted: Mr. Rictus was originally an extremely religious man who did only good but after briefly dying on the operating table and realizing there was no afterlife, he became one of the world's worst supervillains after becoming enraged that his virtue would never be rewarded by God and realizing there were no consequences for being bad after he died. Of course, being hideously disfigured in the process probably didn't do him any favors either. Weirdly, Mark Millar's other comic Chosen is implied to be set in the same universe, and it's about the second coming of Jesus.
  • The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael: When Charon escapes to the land of the living, he has to be returned to his duties before he is killed. Since in his case he's not supposed to be there in the first place, he won't be sent to purgatory like any regular soul but his demise means he will simply cease to exist.
  • Purgatori: The demon Cremator invents a sword capable of erasing demons from existence, including Lucifer. If they are hurt with any other weapon, they'll just regenerate.
  • The Walking Dead implies this a couple of times.
    • After her death, Rick's hallucination of Lori says that she wishes she could tell him that she and everyone he's lost is in a better world, but reminds him he was never one to believe in the afterlife anyway.
    • After her Happily Failed Suicide, Maggie tells Glenn that there is nothing after death and that she will take what she can from the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • The titular character in Sasmira, upon her resurrection, swore that there was nothing after death and that the Egyptian gods didn't exist. She was sentenced by her father to have her mouth gagged with a device in order to silence her.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): It's revealed that Vivienne Graham experienced this when she was Only Mostly Dead, and it takes San viewing her memories and seeing The Nothing After Death to make her realize that she really did die. It's implied by Word of God and by Godzilla in the story that Cessation of Existence is actually an intermediary stage between death and Reincarnation.
  • Luminosity: Edward believes that, because vampires lack souls, they cease to exist post-death, while humans go on to an afterlife of some kind. Bella, while open to the possibility of an afterlife, points out that there's no actual evidence it exists at all, much less that it discriminates between humans and vampires in this way, and so believes this is what happens to everyone who dies regardless of species — which is why she's so keen on becoming a vampire. The two have several discussions about this, though it's worth noting that Edward isn't particularly good at debating in a perfectly rational field.
  • Comes up occasionally in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanfiction:
    • Daylight Burning: According to the Nightmare, no part of the soul survives the death of the body — instead, all consciousness, memory and being simply cease the moment the physical self does. This is her primary reason for wanting to live forever.
    • Last One Standing is the first time this happens. Notable because it's left ambiguous as to whether or not that is what actually befalls the dead.
    • Reflections is the second time it comes up. The two immortal protagonists discuss the idea of eternal nothingness. They do not agree.
    • I Did Not Want To Die mentions the well of souls twice as a possible afterlife. Whether or not it's real is ambiguous.
    • In Dying to Get There, Rainbow Dash believes that Twilight's Destructive Teleportation would result in multiple copies of herself in the afterlife, something which upsets her greatly. Twilight comforts her by pointing out that her teleportation doesn't actually work like that, but even if it did, it wouldn't matter anyway because there is no afterlife. Rainbow Dash suffers an off-screen Existential Crisis and reappears at the end of the story wearing a helmet and kneepads to keep herself safe.
    • In the Pony POV Series there is decidedly an Afterlife, with Heaven, Hell, and a form of Purgatory (which is more Limbo). However, there's also Oblivion, where half a person who was erased from existence's soul (called a Shadow of Existence, representing their life, appearance, and experiences) goes which can still one day exist again if merged with a fitting being or becoming part of a Draconequus. Even if this Shadow is destroyed, their Light of Existence (the other half they began with and is the base, core being) will go back to Fauna Luster and be Reincarnated. This does not apply to deities, so if their Shadow of Existence is destroyed, they're gone permanently. D__t had this happen to him, and thus no longer exists in any sense of the word. There's also the Shadow of Chernobull/Makarov, who never had a Light to begin with, so after being devoured by the Blank Wolf his Shadow is all that's left.
    • In the The Freeport Venture story Come and See, Sunset Shimmer inflicts this on Sombra, after extensive experimentation on his soul.
    • In Codex Equus, this is normally subverted, as the afterlife and souls are an established fact. Generally each pantheon has their own Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory Realms for their worshipers, unaligned ones exist, and Reincarnation also happens. However, rarely something can happen to entirely destroy a soul, resulting in the being ceasing to exist entirely. One example is Queen Dark Crystal, whose soul was so unstable due to the ritual that turned her into a Made of Evil abomination that when she was finally slain by Fairytale, it violently exploded. Some crimes are also so unspeakably evil that Primeval Law dictates the guilty party have their soul destroyed.
    • In The Bridge, after Giranbo is killed by Destroyah, it's mentioned she lacks a soul and thus ceased to exist after death.
  • In Wisdom and Courage, this happens to Link after the final battle in chapter 34. The hero uses the Fierce Deity's Mask during the battle in order to defeat Veran, but the conflict between his own soul and that of the mask ultimately ends up mutually canceling each other out and destroying them both, leaving Link as essentially an Empty Shell. But thanks to Zelda's wish on the Triforce, they both are restored.
  • In Being Dead Ain't Easy, Joey is in danger of this since he's already dead; dying again would mean he'd utterly cease to exist.
  • In the Danny Phantom/Beetlejuice crossover story, Say It Thrice, this is what can happen to ghosts who end up destroyed rather than moving on or being exorcised. When he forces his way into the human world through the Ghost Portal, Betelgeuse almost succumbs to this fate.
  • In "Lost and Found", when Paige Matthews (Charmed (1998)) is taking part in the mission to retrieve the Soul Stone (Avengers: Endgame), she learns from Prue Halliwell that this is the fate of all those who died in the Snap, as their souls were held in the Soul Stone rather than passing on to an afterlife and lost after Thanos destroyed it. Paige is assured that they can restore those killed by the Snap with their plan to recreate the Gauntlet, but Prue subsequently sacrifices herself to retrieve the Soul Stone, sacrificing her afterlife so that all those killed in the Snap can come back.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Stargate Atlantis crossover "The Long Haul", it is revealed that Wraith feeding doesn't just kill the victim, but actually destroys the souls of those they feed on.
  • In Did I Make the Most of Loving You?, Laura Roslin states that this is the fate of anyone who dies on Kobol as their souls will fade rather than pass on, making it clear to Tom Zarek after she kills him for trying to kill her family that she will ensure nobody remembers him once she gets back to the fleet.
  • In My Mother, Anakin and Obi-Wan reveal to Padme that it is impossible for non-Force users to retain sentience after death on their own, and it has even taken time for the Jedi to learn how to manifest as Force ghosts. However, they tell her that they have managed to learn how to teach non-Force-users to retain or even regain their identities after death, with their first success case being Bail Organa.
  • What naturally used to happen to humans (and still happens to Merfolk) in the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality Recursive Fanfiction Following the Phoenix. The Atlanteans tried to avert this trope by creating souls as a backup of every human's mind, but they failed to give souls the ability to think up new thoughts, or even to do much of anything without some additional charms, so they just ended up with The Nothing After Death. However, this trope can still apply when souls get destroyed, such as after a Dementor's Kiss.
  • The Worm fanfiction Queen of Blood (SirWill) has this happen to two members of Slaughterhouse Nine after the group is wiped out by Taylor and company. Mannequin, Hatchet Face, Siberian and Shatterbird all end up in their own individual Ironic Hell, Bonesaw is simply purged of her sins and sent to the afterlife with her mother as she wasn't completely to blame for her crimes, and we dont get to see where Crawler ends up (he doesn't technically die during the story, Dragon throws the only remaining piece of him into space, where he eventually regenerates several decades later, until he finally dies about a century later while crushed in the atmosphere of Jupiter). However, Burnscar, or rather, the Superpowered Evil Side that embodies Burnscar, is simply erased from existence while her other half Mimi is sent on to the cycle of rebirth, and Jack Slash is told by Death that his soul is so repugnant and pathetically sadistic that Hell doesn't want him, and he's barred from Heaven. So, he's instead obliberated completely.
  • Death is forced to take a vacation: Fall Harvest, the Reaper for the alicorn race, would rather face this than Princess Celestia, what with their past.
  • In Warriors Redux, the Dark Forest is Adapted Out. Instead, bad Clan cats fade away into nothingness when they die.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Stargate SG-1 crossover "The Magic of Wormholes", Giles and Willow assist Stargate Command in translating a prophecy that reveals that Willow will inflict this on Anubis using a particular ritual, which Giles describes as the most terrible thing anyone can do even as all parties have to agree that Anubis merits such an extreme response.
  • In Princess of the Blacks, a ghost who loses their way will eventually simply fade away into non-existence.
  • When Dawn starts talking about breaking the rules in Reaping the Whirlwind, George warns her that if a Reaper breaks the rules too badly or too many times, Upper Management will erase them from existence.
  • In These Are the Damned, Tom asks Jake what it felt like to be deadnote ; Jake responds that he remembers nothing, and it terrifies him.

    Films — Animation 
  • The ultimate fate of old or unwanted memories and other elements of Riley's mindscape in Inside Out; after being consigned to the vast chasm between the Emotions' Headquarters and the rest of the mind, the memories fade, grow dim, and eventually dissolve away. Bing Bong the imaginary friend pulls a Heroic Sacrifice to allow Joy to escape the pit, symbolizing Riley's need to grow up and leave some of her more childish elements behind.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: If a character is killed outside of their own game, they cease to exist, and their games will then be unplugged.
  • The dead in The Book of Life go to The Land Of The Forgotten when nobody on Earth remembers them. They're implied not to last long there as some souls are seen turning into sand and being blown away by the wind.
  • Being based on the same mythology, Coco has souls fade away when no-one remembers them. It's wondered in-universe if they stop existing or move on somewhere else. Word of God implies it's the latter.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 2:37, Sean explicitly rejects the notions of heaven, hell and reincarnation, instead subscribing to this view of death. He also notes that he doesn't fear dying.
  • In The 6th Day, religious extremists believe that clones don't have souls and therefore will simply cease to exist when they die. After being killed and cloned, one of Drucker's mooks notes that he didn't experience any kind of an afterlife in between. However, clones inherit the memories of the person they were cloned from, which are obviously stored in the brain; as those memories stop when the brain becomes inactive, it doesn't preclude the possibility of the previous clone existing in a non-corporeal form. One of them even complains about pain from injuries he sustained after his last brain backup.
  • This is what one of the two main characters in The Bucket List initially believes. It's implied that he's changed his mind by the end of the film.
  • In Wes Craven's Chiller, a man (played by Michael Beck of Xanadu fame) is thawed out and revived when his cryonic containment unit fails. When a priest asks him what there is after death, he says, "Nothing. You die and there's just darkness." (It may or may not be true; Beck's character in the movie is an Unreliable Expositor since he Came Back Wrong.)
  • In Dead Birds, Todd encounters a demonic Sam in the field as he’s trying to leave, and evaporates into thin air.
  • Defending Your Life: You can get thousands of attempts to live your life properly (that is, without fear), but there's an upper limit, at which point "the universe throws you away" according to Bob.
  • Dogma: A Class X-4 Apocalypse will result in this if the Big Bad gets his way. Basically, Azrael was so tortured by the absence of God and the self-imposed suffering of the damned in Hell that he would rather be wiped out of existence than suffer it any longer, consequences to the universe be damned.
  • In Dragonheart Dragon Sean Connery says that only certain dragons get to have an afterlife, branded by the stars. The others just... disappear when they die.
  • This is the effect of the God Killer in Drive Angry. Technically, though, those shot with it do exist in a very specific form... that being their gibbed remains painting everything close by from the explosive power of the gun. Metaphysically, it plays this trope straight.
  • This was the afterlife (or the lack thereof) depicted in The Invention of Lying before the main character invented religion to make people feel better.
  • Jennifer's Body: Colin's mother says he's just a corpse now, not in some better place like his emo friends say (at his funeral, no less).
  • Liz In September: Liz, while contemplating the idea of death, muses that she believes this happens when you die, saying there will be nothing left from her after.
  • M3GAN: After learning about death, the robot M3GAN appears to regard it this way. When Cady asks if the recently deceased Brandon is really in a better place like Gemma says, M3GAN's answer is "No. He's nowhere."
  • A Matter of Faith: During the debate, Kamen states he believes death is the end, to Stephen's dismay.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian: One of the crucified victims at the end of the film has a positive attitude about this: "You came from nothing, you're going back to nothing! What have you lost? Nothing!"
  • Night Train to Lisbon: Discussed by Amadeu while giving his speech in the church. He feels that eternal life would in fact be worse than this, saying it would devalue present existence and could be unbearable.
  • Princess Cyd: Discussed by Cyd and Miranda. The latter doesn't believe in an afterlife, probing Miranda about what she believes. Miranda doesn't claim to believe in Heaven and Hell, but does think there's something more. She doesn't answer however when Cyd asks if she really believes that they'll see Cyd's mom again.
  • In the Rampage trilogy, Bill Williamson is a firm believer that there is no afterlife, which is first brought up in the second film Rampage: Capital Punishment, where he shoots one of his hostages dead and points out that no soul or spirit is rising from her remains, then later goes on a rant that religion is just a scam because God does not exist and there's nothing more to dying other than your corpse being put into the ground.
  • Both the bad guys and the good guys in R.I.P.D. use "soul-killing" bullets against their respective enemies. The two protagonists are also temporarily threatened with this after screwing up an assignment - perhaps the very ultimate in Disproportionate Retribution.
  • The Student Nurses: Greg is 18 years old and is terminally ill with cystic fibrosis. He's pretty bitter about it.
    Greg: For each person, the end of the world comes after he dies.
  • The Sun Is Also a Star: When talking to Daniel, Natasha indicates that she thinks death is the end.
  • The Sunset Limited: White positively longs for this. He wants to die and have it be the end.
  • Gorr's god-killing rampage in Thor: Love and Thunder is kicked off when his god tells him there's no afterlife and he'll never see his daughter again. Though a Post-Credits Scene shows that Valhalla exists.
  • Voyage of the Unicorn: Discussed by Alan and one of his students after he asks what if anything happens when we die. Alan calls this view "sad" and "boring". There is a deep subtext here, as he's recently lost his wife.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, it's implied this is what happens to Toons who have been killed using the dip, since the weasels who laugh themselves to death become angels, while the one who falls into the dip does not.
  • Wrath of the Titans: This is what happens when a god dies.

  • Robert Cormier's In The Middle Of The Night, where the villain went Ax-Crazy after discovering this.
  • H. P. Lovecraft:
    • Ex Oblivione, where the protagonist discovered that oblivion was the natural state of things, and that 'existence', as it is known, is merely a brief nightmare...
    • In The Quest of Iranon the main character is told of such oblivion in terms of similar optimism by the people in one of the towns he visits. When Iranon himself dies at the end the issue of what becomes of him is not spoken of, and the variance and flexibility of Lovecraft's contradictory cosmology and mythos leaves the question open.
    • In The Shunned House, the narrator mentions a POSITIVE form of this, refering to it as a "merciful oblivion".
    • In "in defense of Dagon" Lovecraft wrote that not existing wouldn't be so bad, as you can't suffer or lack anything if you have no consciousness.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion, ghosts who are sundered from the gods drift blindly until they fade away completely. It's called the true death or the death of the soul. Most people go on to the afterlife, though.
  • On a Pale Horse: It's stated that people generally go to an afterlife, but which afterlife depends to some extent on what they believe; one incidental character is a firm atheist who believes that cessation of existence is what happens to everybody when they die, and although he's wrong about the "everybody", it is indeed what happens to him.
  • Night Watch (Series): The afterlife is only for Others; muggles just cease to exist. Since the afterlife is the dead existing as ghosts, unable to affect the real world, and always feeling that everything around them is not real, they actually wish for the cessation. Anton grants them this at the end of The Last Watch, but it doesn't stop new dead Others from suffering the same fate.
  • In the Deverry series, this is the ultimate punishment for the principal antagonist of the first four books. Everyone else gets to reincarnate.
  • In a story by Stanisław Lem, a Ridiculously Human Robot called Automatthew ends up stranded on a Deserted Island, along with his artificial friend (called Alfred), a small, intelligent ball. After calculating that the odds of getting saved are next to nothing, Alfrd advises Automatthew to commit suicide to avoid an inevitable and much more painful death, and brings up several arguments for the case that Cessation of Existence is actually the greatest thing that could happen to a person.
    Picture if you will: no struggles, no anxieties or apprehensions, no suffering of the body or the soul, no unhappy accidents, and this on what a scale! Why, even if all the world's evil forces were to join and conspire against you, they would not reach you! Truly, nothing can compare with the sweet security of one who is no more!
  • In Poul Anderson's story "The Martyr", a race of advanced aliens has been systematically steering humans away from research into psychic phenomena to spare them from the knowledge that the aliens have an afterlife but humans don't.
  • Vonda N. McIntyre's The Exile Waiting: A character learns that this is what happens after death, through being telepathically linked to someone at the time of their death.
  • Harry Potter: This is what happens to those kissed by a dementor, since they lose their soul. The Ministry actually uses this as a form of punishment...
  • Momo: The Grey Men are parasitic soulless beings which only exist by stealing time from humans. When their stolen time is taken away from them, they simply fade out of existence forever.
  • In the Warrior Cats series, the characters do have an afterlife - StarClan if they're good, the Dark Forest if they're bad. Either way, when the StarClan or Dark Forest cat is completely forgotten by living cats, they gradually fade away into nothing. However, if they receive an injury that in life would be fatal, they just disappear instantly.
    • Whether the 'fading away' constitutes this or not isn't exactly clear. It is mentioned that StarClan cats become more and more wispy over time (having "earned their peace"), but even cats who died ages before the beginning of the series—indeed, long enough ago that even a human would struggle to remember them—are shown to still interact with others and give advice to the living. Dark Forest cats, on the other hand, are outright stated to play this trope straight.
  • In The Skinjacker Trilogy, cessation of existence normally does not occur - you're either living, in Everlost, or you've gone into the light - but a scar wraith can extinguish an Everlost soul by merely touching them. This is the fate of Squirrel in Everfound.
  • In Paradise Lost, the fallen angels discuss this as a possible punishment if they rebel against God again. Some feel this would be better than eternity in Hell, but Satan vetoes them.
  • In the Dreamblood Duology, Hetawa Dream Walkers can inflict this by draining a dying soul of all its dreamblood, causing it to dissipate rather than reach the afterlife. The main character of the second book deliberately destroys someone's soul as a Mercy Kill, as they were a Tortured Monster whose afterlife would have been an eternal nightmare with no hope of rest.
  • In the Magic: The Gathering novel Planeshift, the lich Lord Dralnu claims that this is what happened when he died. You never get to find out whether he spoke the truth, though.
  • In The Wheel of Time:
    • This is what Moridin wants, for himself and everyone else. At the end of the series, the world is saved and Moridin dies. Word of God is somewhat ambivalent over whether or not he actually got the oblivion he craved, though.
    • Wolves in the series have it worse off than humans. A wolf who dies then lives on in the World of Dreams (which only a few humans do). A wolf who dies in the World of Dreams is gone.
    • Characters swear by their "hope of salvation and rebirth", which implies there is a chance of not being reborn (presumably for doing wrong) and thus ceasing to exist. However this is never gone into with any detail.
    • This is the fate of anyone hit with Balefire. Balefire will leave an empty hole in the cosmic fabric the titular Wheel spins where you once were. Get hit with enough of it, and not only do you cease to exist, but the consequences of your actions and proof of your existence up to a certain point in the immediate past are undone as well via a combination of Ret-Gone and Cosmic Retcon. The sheer terrible power of this, plus the strains it put on the fabric of reality, led to both sides of the War of Power to ban its use.
  • Achieving this becomes the main goal of prince Evnos from Darrell Schweitzer's The White Isle after his visit to the afterlife, where everyone is tortured forever regardless of their deeds in life. He succeeds.
  • Debated in John Varley's Steel Beach. Hildy says that people need to believe in an afterlife even when they know that it makes no sense.
  • Implied to be the case in The Night Land and Awake in the Night Land when people have their soul Destroyed, or maybe they are just prevented from reincarnating again.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Elsewhen has a man who crossed over from one universe to another, and predicts that every person, when they die, gets the afterlife they expect to get, because no person can believe in their own nonexistence.
  • The Camp Half-Blood Series:
    • Gods who fade away (such as Helios, Selene and Pan) will return to the Chaos, the first goddess and the void from which all existence began. The Burning Maze reveals that Helios, long believed to have faded, had actually managed to temporarily avert this by tethering his will on Earth due to pure hatred. Once Medea is killed, Apollo manages to convince him to move on. Later, it's revealed that anyone who falls into Chaos will also suffer this fate, as Python does in Apollo's climactic battle with him in The Tower of Nero.
    • Tartarus absorbs Hyperion and Krios' essences in The House of Hades, resulting in their ceasing to exist.
  • The Kane Chronicles: Being based on Egyptian Mythology, good people go to Heaven and bad people get their souls eaten and stop existing. It's also specified that people who don't believe in an afterlife just stop existing when they die.
    • This is the ultimate fate of Apophis — all components of his existence are destroyed by the end after his Shadow is execrated.
  • American Gods: Shadow asks for this when he's allowed to choose an afterlife after he dies. What he gets is a mindlessly happy Nothing After Death until he gets brought back to life.
  • Arc of Fire: Myrren reveals that death is simply not like anything after she's revived, implying this.
  • The Sword of Truth: Due to the chimes' starting to destroy magic in Faith of the Fallen, its later revealed that the underworld (being magical) was destroyed, with there no longer being an afterlife. Thus, now people who die simply stop existing. This is just fine, according to the protagonists.
  • Schooled in Magic: This is pondered by Emily in the first book, after she hears the elves can destroy souls. She fears that without an afterlife, people would just do whatever they wanted.
  • Inheritance Cycle: The elves and the dragons believe this happens when living things die, presumably due to their natural telepathic abilities, as living minds always simply fade and disappear during death. In the end, Eragon himself admits that he would prefer this option to some form of eternal existence.
  • It's mentioned in The Little Mermaid that, while mermaids can live three times as long as a human, they have no immortal souls. When they die they turn to sea foam, and that is that. The little mermaid's desire to marry the prince and turn human is inspired in part by her love for him and in part by her want for an afterlife. After she fails to marry him and turns to sea foam, she is given a chance at earning a soul by doing good for 300 years as a spirit.
  • Villains by Necessity: The entire universe will be "sublimated" in a flash of light if the "Good" side isn't stopped.
  • The Stormlight Archive: Stone Shamanism, the religion of Shinovar, teaches that people who follow the religion and sin are tortured after death, but people who refuse the religion simply stop existing. Szeth-son-son-Vallano is so terrified of nonexistence that he continues following orders to slaughter thousands despite being a pacifist who knows it is wrong.
  • The Neanderthal Parallax: The Neanderthals universally believe that death is the end of being. Even "life after death" is an oxymoron to them. Ponter says that our afterlife beliefs might enable war, as we can tell ourselves that the dead are still "here" in a sense. Cornelius hopes they're right before killing himself.
  • The Silerian Trilogy: Discussed by Tansen and Josarian. The latter thinks the Otherworld might not really exist, and that spirits whom the Guardians call up could be just illusions. Josarian denies this though, and Tansen later concedes. This is the fate of anyone taken by the White Dragon too.
  • This might be the fate of humans in the Tolkien's Legendarium, even the Valar don't know. Eru's great gift to humans was mortality. Elves have Biological Immortality, but if their physical body dies by other means their spirit is forced to wait in a sort of limbo at the edge of the world, only finally able to move on when the world has come to an end. Humans don't end up in this same limbo when they die, and only Eru knows if they end up anywhere or simply cease to exist. That said, the canonicity-arguable short story "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth" in Morgoth's Ring has the elf Finrod positing the opposite: that human souls definitely go somewhere beyond the world after death, while Elves are bound to the world (which includes the aforementioned limbo) and will actually cease to exist completely in body and soul when the world ends.
  • Attempted by Director Fulcher in You Are On Fire (Sign Here Please.) as a last ditch effort to put Nathan's file in order. By destroying Nathan's file entirely, he hopes to make it so that Nathan disappears from existence completely. The book is centered on the gang's attempt to correct this before Fulcher can get done editing adjacent files of any mention of Nathan.
  • Johannes Cabal: The trope is all but impossible; even souls eaten by demons survive in some form. However, the Ivory Citadel, built and abandoned by the newly-fallen Lucifer before he founded Hell, utterly annihilates anyone who enters. Even devils are terrified of the place.
  • The novelization of Ferris Bueller's Day Off has a scene (possibly deleted from the film) where Ferris, Sloane, and Cameron are shooting the bull during lunch, and what starts as a joking talk about food, school, whatever, turns much darker when Cameron starts talking about people thinking about suicide. All three of them turn out to be surprisingly intelligent and mature for seventeen-year-olds. Cameron says he believes the best way for a depressed teen (or anyone else) to deal with suicidal thoughts maybe to take the Anti-Nihilist position: You'll only be alive for a limited time, so you may as well make the most of it, no matter how tough it can be. He notes that he has to take an atheist's point of view and assume death means Cessation of Existence; since if there is any possibility of an afterlife his theory falls apart. Sloane and Ferris see some serious problems with this way of thinking and point them out to Cameron, which he acknowledges. But then he says he still holds to his belief, however flawed it may be, and he drops a bombshell.... "That theory works. It's the only thing that's kept me alive the last two years."
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, Daylen hopes that this will be his fate when he dies, as an alternative to an endless, infinite hell for all of his sins.
  • In Diaspora by Greg Egan, Cessation is generally presented as a voluntary option for any being which has achieved everything they might have set out to accomplish. At the end of the novel, having reached a kind of literal end of all things, Yatima and Paolo, probably the last two recognizably human-derived beings in the multiverse, consider their choices. Paolo accepts Cessation; "That's not death. It's completion." Yatima chooses to spend the rest of eternity in abstract research. In the end, there was only mathematics.
  • Reaper (2016): What the deletion weapon does; literally deletes players' minds from Game, leaving their frozen body as an empty shell. For a time, Jex is concerned that the Reaper has used it to Kill and Replace Hawk. In fact, he's replaced another Founder Player, using their position to take Jex hostage and almost use the weapon on her.
  • Russ from Asperger Sunset seems to be a believer in this trope, as he refers to his dead parents as "completely, totally nonexistent."
  • While the exact nature of the afterlife in The Belgariad is unclear, several characters are erased from existence when they attempt to "unmake" something with magic. The Universe takes harsh exception to this, and trying to do so gets the sorcerer in question deleted from reality. (One is referred to as "dead, and worse than dead" after it happens.)
  • Ghost Roads: This is what happens to a ghost killed in the Halloween rites, or one who kills one of the living on Halloween but fails to do so next year. Also the fate of those unfortunate souls fed to Bobby's car.
  • Ryn, the main character of The One Who Eats Monsters, has a portal to a place called gehenna in her heart. If she eats the heart of something with a soul, the soul will be carried to gehenna, and burn up in the dark fire of the star in the center. It is destroyed and gone forever.

  • John Lennon - "Imagine":
    Imagine there's no Heaven
    It's easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
  • Talking Heads: According to songwriter David Byrne, this trope is what he intended "Road to Nowhere" to be about. "Well we know where we're goin' but we don't know where we've been...We're on a road to nowhere; come on inside. Takin' that ride to nowhere; we'll take that ride. Maybe you wonder where you are: I don't care! Here is where time is on our side...."
  • The Gothic Archies' song "The Dead Only Quickly" is about this trope.
  • The Bright Eyes song "At the Bottom of Everything" implies this, if briefly.
    And in the ear of every anarchist
    Who sleeps but doesn't dream,
    We must sing, we must sing,
    We must sing
    • Expanded in another song by them, "Down in a Rabbit Hole," which is explicitly about death.
    If your thoughts should turn to death
    better stomp them out
    like a cigarette
  • The whole point of the Elysian Fields album The Afterlife.
  • The song There Isn't Any God (aka Gospel) by Rusty Cage is about this trope, along with his belief that God doesn't exist.
  • The Monty Python song "Always Look at the Bright Side of Life".
  • The Atheist Tabernacle Choir skit from Spitting Image is a gospel group whose songs had no basis in religion. The choir sings about ending up in a wooden box or little urn and there is no afterlife. They also agree that the idea is depressing.
  • This is the fate of Ma, the final Big Bad of the Evillious Chronicles. Having been born as a fusion of three separate souls, Ma lacked a soul of her own, meaning that when she died she would simply cease to exist entirely. Her ultimate goal is to avoid this fate by absorbing the seven demons of sin and later their contractors and escaping the world before its destruction, becoming a "pure being". In the end, said souls are forced out of her and she desperately tries to continue her existence by switching bodies with her daughter Nemesis (the Wrath sinner), not realizing that Nemesis was anticipating that and convinced the Demon of Wrath to break the contract with her that keeps her from dying. Ma proceeds to fall to her death and her consciousness vanishes for good.

  • Mark Twain allegedly said, "I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it." Though other quotes from him and his relatives reveal an inconsistent opinion on the matter; his daughter Clara said: "Sometimes he believed death ended everything, but most of the time he felt sure of a life beyond."
  • On the other hand, there remains the possibility of someone being born again in the future. From the perspective of someone that would appear to be instantaneous, and of course there's no way to know when and where that would happen and the previous self for all purposes would be lost forever. Both Greek and Chinese mythology postulate that the person would have no knowledge of ever existing previously, typically as a result of drinking some potion that erases memories.

  • This is a risk that Tony Hawk runs in the Interstitial: Actual Play one-shot Reality and Other Falsehoods because he's using The Memory playbook, where if he loses all connections with other players he fades from memory and existence. That's exactly what happens partway through due to several extremely bad rolls, forcing player Riley to create a new character for the back half of the one-shot.

  • Philip Larkin's poem "Aubade" is about the fear of ceasing to exist, and how there's really no relief from it.
    This is a special way of being afraid
    No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
    That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
    Created to pretend we never die,
    And specious stuff that says No rational being
    Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
    That this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,
    No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
    Nothing to love or link with,
    The anasthetic from which none come round.
  • Algernon Charles Swinburne's poem, "The Garden of Proserpine" describes it as a positive thing that finally brings peace.
    Then star nor sun shall waken,
    Nor any change of light:
    Nor sound of waters shaken,
    Nor any sound or sight:
    Nor wintry leaves nor vernal,
    Nor days nor things diurnal;
    Only the sleep eternal
    In an eternal night.

  • While the majority of Christians believe that you go to either Heaven or Hell (and occasionally Purgatory), some Christians believe in Conditional Immortality, also called Conditionalism or Annihilationism. Conditionalists hold that everlasting life is a gift from God, and therefore the final punishment of the unrighteous will be death. The Bible distinguishes between two states of death: Sheol or Hades, the common grave of mankind, and Gehenna, a "second death" from which there is no hope of coming back, though some translations conflate both concepts as "hell". The Bible repeatedly mentions how the consequences of sin is death (Romans 6:23), humans will naturally return to dust (Genesis 3:19) (which most likely refers to the physical body), God can destroy both body and soul in Gehenna (Matthew 10:28), and everlasting life is God's gift to the righteous through his son Jesus (John 3:16). Conditionalists also tend to note Genesis in how we were banned from everlasting life as a result of sin (with Genesis 2:17 interpreted as spiritual, not physical death), but God offered it back (He never offered Fluffy Cloud Heaven) through Jesus, so, if we were immortal in the first place there would never be a necessity for such an elaborate scheme to reacquire everlasting life. The idea of conditional immortality is also helpful in Christian apologetics, since so many are repulsed by the Disproportionate Retribution inherent in the Eternal Conscious Torment view of Hell.
    • Conditionalists include some evangelical Christians, as well as certain denominations (sometimes called sects or cults by other Christians) such as the Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. They reason from these and other scriptures that there is no Hell or afterlife. They believe that when you die, you cease to exist until you are resurrected. Those who died saved will be resurrected soon after the second coming, while those who were lost when they died come back to life in the Second Resurrection where they face probation for their sins; if they fail, they die again, but without hope of further resurrection. They argue that the idea of God imposing eternal torture without parole for a little doubt means that God Is Evil, and that the idea of the permanent and immortal soul is Platonic and influenced by paganism, not Biblical in origin.
    • For more information on the different views within and variations of Conditionalism, helpful sites would include Rethinking Hell and Hell Know.
    • Mortalism is the term for the view that the soul is not naturally immortal, but dies with the body. The opposite view, naturally, is called immortalism. Christian mortalism encompasses the annihilationist or conditionalist view described above, but the term can also describe any view that human beings have no immortal soul.
    • Animals are subjected to this fate as they do have a mortal soul, unlike the immortal soul of human beings.
  • The common Western misconception (not helped by mistranslations as the West began to make contact with the East) of Buddhist Nirvana is this - certainly not helped by Buddhism's teachings to be free of suffering, inherent in life. In reality, Nirvana is more of a "super-state" of sorts beyond all existence, impurity, and physicality, but it's more complicated than that. However, it does involve ceasing to exist as a specific, individual person, something Buddhism regards as only an illusion that is overcome by enlightenment.
  • In the Egyptian Mythology, the soul survives physical death, and thus the believers of this mythology didn't fear death per se that much. But the afterlife is very dangerous, and if a malevolent spirit manages to eat you on the way between the world of the living and the world of the dead, you cease to exist. Additionally, if luckily you had avoided these spirits, you were judged by a council of deities and if you lost your trial they threw you to Ammit, a soul-eating chimera ending the existence of the judged. Somewhat more mundanely, they also took mummification infinitely seriously because they believed that a botched preparation for embalming destroyed the soul of the person whose corpse they were preparing.
  • This is the viewpoint of the Classical Epicureans, who did not fear death, as they would not be around to experience their own, and held that others would not suffer in an afterlife.
  • Stoics in general also didn't believe in an afterlife, though a few did argue in favor of an immortal soul.
  • Many atheists, agnostics and pantheists usually ascribe to this. Most don't have a problem with this either, especially if they left a religion that believed in some kind of Cosmic Horror Story-esque afterlife such as Hell. On the other hand, some are transhumanists (like the folks at Less Wrong) who do not want this and feel immortality would be great, with the goal of achieving it by various scientific means.
  • In Talamancan mythology, the soul doesn't die with the body, however, it is considered to be ageless, but not immortal. People are punished by being left to fend on their own, then they get killed and eaten by evil spirits if they don't die of dehydration first.
  • In Mesopotamian Mythology, while everyone was sent to the same afterlife (Irkalla, AKA the Underworld), people who did not receive a proper burial (for example being burned) would meet this.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • If you kill a demon or devil on its home plane in they're gone for good (see Order of the Stick, below). This depends on the version being played; 3.5 edition, for example, held that Outsiders (demons, devils, angels, etc.) and Elementals could only be restored to life using the True Resurrection spell. On the other hand, it's possible for mortal souls to be outright destroyed by gods or powerful outsiders, and at least one mortal spell (Necrotic Termination), if successful, creates an undead creature that kills the target and devours their soul, noting explictly that nothing can bring them back.
    • Planescape:
      • There's a group called the Prolongers who believe that this is true for everyone. As a result, they're terrified of death, and have used a Dangerous Forbidden Technique that has transformed them into abominations that can drain the life force of others to restore their own youth.
      • The Dustmen believe that everyone is already dead and trapped in a cruel afterlife full of suffering where we're born, die and continually reincarnate until we can learn to let go. The end state of existence for the Dustmen is "True Death", a state where there is no suffering, or indeed nothing at all.
  • In Nomine: Souls are fairly sturdy things, but some situations can result in the Forces that make them up being scattered and disbanded. If this happens, the individual is gone, utterly and forever.
    • This is typically what happens to celestial or ethereal beings who are destroyed in celestial combat, as this results in damage being deal directly to their spiritual selves. Demon Princes are also fond of forcefully destroying the souls of disappointing or disobedient underlings as a form of punishment and as an example for others.
    • This is the fate that awaits all undead, as the process of becoming a mummy or a vampire causes the subject's body to become the only thing holding their Forces together. An undead can keep going potentially forever, but if its body is ever destroyed its soul will scatter to the four winds and it will cease to be.
    • Occasionally, the souls of humans who don't lean strongly towards Heaven, Hell, or a given Ethereal domain just... scatter and dissolve on death. Celestials blame this on any number of things, including existential despair, profound suicidal urges, atheism, and excessive reincarnations, but nobody actually knows for sure.
  • Wraith: The Oblivion: The threat of death is ever present, even though, in Wraith, you're already dead when the game starts. The unstated goal of the game is to move on from the Shadowlands, and there are two ways to do this. The first is the ultimate enlightenment, Transcendence. This is where the ghost accepts its death and moves on. To what, who knows? Transcended ghosts aren't around to tell. That's why it's called moving on. The second way to move on is the titular Oblivion. Ignoring for the moment the fact that Oblivion is also a force of nature and essentially the big bad of the metaplot, for the sake of this explanation it is a phenomenon: a very rare form of death after death. When the ghost is damaged enough it goes into a manic/psychotic episode called a Harrowing, and if this happens badly/often enough, the soul obliviates and ceases to exist. The horror of it all? Transcendence and Oblivion look exactly the same to the onlooker.
  • Pathfinder: Your soul usually get assigned to an afterlife depending on your actions in life. However, your soul isn't immortal and can be killed permanently. This is also the modus operandi of daemons, who can and will utterly obliterate your soul if they kill you rather than allow you to pass on. While petitioners and other outsiders can be brought back by powerful magic, the implication is that they basically stop existing until resurrected.
  • Exalted: This is the fate of anything that falls into the void of Oblivion that lies beneath the Underworld. There are also certain powers that confine the victim (or, eventually and in exchange for great benefits, the user) to Oblivion. The Neverborn ultimately want to fall into Oblivion, because they regard it as preferable to their torturous and impotent unlives.
  • New World of Darkness: It's implied that this is what the true Afterlife is — there's no obvious difference between when a ghost "moves on" and when it's destroyed — but no-one's actually certain. The Underworld (where ghosts go if their anchors are destroyed but they still aren't ready to let go of existence) is somewhere between Hell and The Nothing After Death, instead. Directly destroying a ghost definitely causes this, though.
  • In both New World of Darkness and Old World of Darkness vampires can preform diablerie, which involves sucking out another vampire's soul. It is strongly implied victims of this simply cease to exist, as such diablerie is commonly considered a Moral Event Horizon by vampires.
  • In Mage: The Awakening, those who are deemed so dangerous that their very existence in any plane —alive or dead— could destroy the world are taken to the edge of the universe and thrown into the collective unconscious and become non-sentient universal energy. This is considered to be such a horrific thing to do that the mage who does so will step down from their seat on their council and cease practicing magic forever.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • During the Horus Heresy, this happens to two people in the span of about 30 seconds, specifically when the Emperor fought Horus in a one-on-one duel and sought to redeem the latter from the Chaos Gods. Horus, however, resisted and committed one last Kick the Dog act by making the Emperor's last bodyguard cease to existnote , which pushed him well beyond the moral horizon for the Emperornote . The Emperor then unleashed such a powerful psychic attack that Horus's very soul was destroyed (much like the bodyguard Horus just killed). It's later shown that this was both due to the Emperor's rage and out of practicality; Chaos Gods can resurrect champions so long as their soul still lives (as with the case of Lucius and Kharn, the champions of Slaanesh and Khorne respectively) but Horus's soul was utterly destroyed, meaning that he's even out of the Chaos Gods' grasp. What the Emperor did not count on was that Horus' first captain, Abaddon, was ruled "close enough" by the Chaos gods, nor did it stop Fabius Bile from just making a thinking clone of Horus with the original's DNA (though Abaddon didn't like that and killed said clone).
    • At one point, Ahriman was offered a reward for being Tzeentch's most favored pawn, which amounted to this. While that sounds pretty bad, this is a setting where dying can result in your soul being claimed and used as plaything by the Chaos Gods, for all eternity. So the reward is a sincere Pet the Dog moment, no matter how twisted, especially coming from Tzeentch.
  • In Warhammer, this is one of two fates that Elves will get upon their deaths via being eaten by Slaanesh. The other is being imprisoned in the underworld of Mirai. Thankfully they have a way to avoid either fate, they can have their souls put inside Waystones that will help protect their homelands, which are almost always in danger.
  • Possible fate of all other living beings in Warhammer 40k universe. For those, who are very, very, very, very lucky, to be exact, as the alternative usually involves eternal torture by the warp itself or the creatures that inhabit it.
  • The inhabitants of Innistrad in Magic: The Gathering believe in something called the Blessed Sleep, which is essentially this. The Blessed Sleep is actually considered the best possible outcome for anyone who dies, since the alternative is becoming a ghost, vampire or any other kind of undead horror.
  • In Forgotten Realms, people who refused to believe in a god during life are punished in the afterlife by slowly having their souls and minds erased in the Wall of the Faithless

  • Frequently discussed in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, mostly by Guildenstern. He turns out to be right, as he and Rosencrantz seem to wink out of existence at the end of the play when they outlive their relevance. Or something.
    Rosencrantz: Do you think death could be a boat?
    Guildenstern: No. Death ... is not. You take my meaning? Death is the ultimate negative, a state of not-being. You can't not-be on a boat.
  • The inspiration for the above, Hamlet, has the title character hope for this in his famous "To be or not to be" speech, with an eye toward ending his suffering. He concludes, however, that the chance it's not true and he'll be punished in the afterlife is too great to risk.
  • The underlying message of the "Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow" monologue from Macbeth.
  • In Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol Marley and the Bogle see a few souls in Hell that appear to blink out of existence. At the climax, the Bogle worries this will happen to Marley if he takes Scrooge's place in death.

  • In BIONICLE, denizens of the Matoran Universe are resurrected on the Red Star to be able to continue their work, but get stranded there due to a glitch, meaning others think they just disappear. However those that suffer great injury to their "brain" or otherwise lose vital parts (or the entirety) of their body can't be resurrected. Krika for instance: he lost control over his ability to manipulate his own density, causing his body and his spirit to fade into nothing. Only at one point was something resembling an afterlife implied, when Mata Nui's spirit began escaping his body during his temporary death, but this was never elaborated on due to LEGO's policies on avoiding religious topics.

    Web Animation 
  • In RWBY the Jabberwalker inflicts this on those it eat. While normally Afterans would Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence after death, the Jabberwalker kills them permanently. Neo copies this ability after killing and assimilating the Jabberwalker.

  • "Life" is a pretty broad concept in Awful Hospital, since almost anything can be self-aware and "death" just changes which bits are eating which, but unexistentialization means that a particular consciousness stops existing "in any form, any place, ever again." It's also the default end for humans.
  • In Ghost Theater, spirits that are Barred from the Afterlife can come to the supernatural theater. There, they are allowed to possess the actors to act out a role in a play, to attempt to free themselves from whatever trauma or unfinished business is holding them back. But it's risky, because failure results in the spirit being permanently extinguished.
  • In Homestuck, if you die, you can still continue on existing as a ghost appearing in dream bubbles. Unless, that is, the dream bubble is destroyed while you're inside it, in which case you, too, cease to exist forever.
    • It's hinted this is also what happens if you're still alive when the session is Scratched. Meenah didn't want that to happen so she killed herself and all her friends immediately before the Scratch hit them, hoping that they would be safe as dream ghosts away from the session. It was Crazy Enough to Work.
    • It should be noted that the above only applies to Sburb players. Non-players who die in the Homestuck universe (the guardians, for instance) don't get to join the dream bubble party and simply cease to exist. Additionally, players in doomed timelines who manage to survive until the timeline ceases to exist are erased from existence as well.
  • Offhandedly mentioned in Misfile. Oddly enough, it's not a universal rule.note 
    Ramael: When a human dies, it's like getting an eternal vacation. A dead angel is just dead.
  • In 1/0, you can become a ghost. However, it is possible to commit true suicide by "pulling a Ribby" by getting lost in your own imagination. A character can also be deanthropomophised, or turned back into whatever they were created from.
  • This is what Gwynn from Sluggy Freelance is threatened with when K'Z'K takes over her body.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • This is what happens to "immortal" creatures like imps and elementals if somebody manages to kill them because they have no soul that can continue on into the afterlife. It's noted at one point that this means "mortal" creatures like humans are actually less afraid of death than "immortal" creatures because they know they'll continue on in some form and may even get resurrected at some point. Celia mentions that she'd just become one with the Plane of Air.
    • It's also stated to be the fate of anyone destroyed by the Snarl, though there's evidence that this may not be true.
    • As the characters live in an RPG Mechanics 'Verse (and know it), it's been noted that this isn't always the case, and that the rules of what happens to Outsiders (the immortal creatures of the Outer Planes) if they're killed keep getting changed.
  • Off-White:
  • In Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal #3566, hell only lasts for sixty seconds, starting out with the devil telling you you're going to fade into nothingness after that and continuing with his spending the rest of the time dancing and singing teenage pop music and refusing to answer your panicked questions.
  • In Slightly Damned, while Medians keep their bodies in the afterlife, Sakido informs Rhea (and the audience) that Angels and Demons have no afterlife. She dies 15 pages later. Much later, Darius and Blue further explained that Angel and Demon souls were immediately recycled into new souls upon death, while Median souls were given an afterlife in order to resolve their worldly sins before being similarly recycled. There's no indication of what happened when the gods regulating this process disappeared.
  • Unsounded: In Kasslyne human memories are contained by a mind/soul and are taken into and stored by the khert after death. The major religions teach that the soul keeps getting reincarnated and the memories returned with the final reincarnation, though there is no evidence of that. If an efheby eats a person it melts and drinks their memories and mind/soul so there is nothing to go into the kerht and that person ceasses to exsist.
  • The Walkyverse appears to combine this with The Nothing After Death; after one character dies, he meets several others floating in an empty void; they have a brief debate about whether this is "purgatory" or just the residual energy of their minds bouncing around space before dissipating entirely.
  • While I'm the Grim Reaper mostly features a more traditional sort of afterlife (with Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory all existing), the Ninth Circle of Heaven is eventually revealed to be this trope by the Archangel Azrael. Since existence is inherently unpleasant, the highest reward for the virtuous is to cease to exist, in direct parallel to the Ninth Circle of Hell (where, in Scarlet’s words, "All you can do is exist"). Since anyone ascended by an Archangel without God's judgment is sent to the Ninth Circle by default, this is effectively the fate of anyone who they harvest.

    Web Original 
  • In Fine Structure, there's supposed to be an afterlife, with dead souls ascending to a higher dimension. The presence of the Imprisoning God causes all souls to be obliviated against the edge of 3+1 space.
    • Paul Klick used the Klick Device to open a hole in reality, intending to take a shortcut to be with his dead wife. A little over 900,000 people - the population of central Berlin - went through the hole. Word of God is that the plan failed utterly - no one gets past the Imprisoning God. Ever.
      • Before Klick used his Klick Device though, and after the Imprisoning God has no need to block the universe, this no longer applies. Word of God states he initially intended for Klick's plan to have accidentally ascended the population of Berlin, but changed it to them having died when it was pointed out that they would've been able to escape the Imprisoning God.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • Happened to one of the test subjects of SCP-896 when he tampered with the SCP's source code to maximize his stats during a containment breach. His account had one single server message on it: "User has been banned for hacking".
    • According to one tale, this is the reason that SCP-447 cannot come into contact with dead bodies. It resurrects them, without any side effects. No zombification, no Came Back Wrong symptoms, not even some consequence of coming back to life similar to The Monkey's Paw, they're exactly the same person in their exact body. But they do remember one thing from the experience of being dead:
      "There's nothing there. The word really isn't sufficient in explaining it, since it has substance, and a history. When you think "nothing", you think of a black void, or a featureless white plain, or whatever. You think of yourself stranded there, stuck in nothingness forever.
      There is no void, or white plain. There's no self to be stuck in them either. You just cease. And that's why we're here. We're here because we know the Foundation's deepest, darkest secret."
  • Normally, people who die in the world of The Quintessential Mary-Sue go to either Heaven or Hell, but if one's soul is absorbed to increase another being's power, that soul will cease to exist completely and experience no afterlife. A soul that goes to Hell can still meet this fate if another damned soul learned the ability to absorb souls during their lifetime.

    Western Animation 
  • Due to Never Say "Die", the Decepticons from Transformers G1 regularly threatened their opponents with "oblivion", implying that they and/or Cybertronians in general did not believe in an afterlife. Note that this was before 'sparks' became a part of the franchise's mythology.
  • In the Grand Finale of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, it's pointed out via extreme Breaking the Fourth Wall that anytime a show ends everyone and everything in the universe it takes place in ceases to exist.
  • Adventure Time: Disturbingly implied to be the case if BMO ever stopped working in "BMO Lost"; after having their batteries removed then replaced hours later, BMO cheerfully replies "I didn't have any dreams!"
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In the final arc of the series, this is implied to be what happens to everyone after death who is not force-sensitive or has not become one with the force. Although it is possible that this could be just the Jedi's (somewhat selfish) view on death. (Other sources suggest that an afterlife is possible for all virtuous sentient beings.) Cessation of Existence is also a core belief of the Sith: they don't believe in life after death, and their fear of this motivates them to hold onto life no matter what, even going so far as to try and discover eternal life. Since the only canon Sith ghost turned out to be an illusion, it's probably true at least for them.
    • Although this has been contradicted by certain things that have been suggested in Star Wars sourcebooks and elsewhere, such as that the Sith fear death not because it ends all, but because after it (for Sith and Dark Jedi, at least) comes drifting through the Dark Side forever and permanent insanity. When Sheev Palpatine was cloned back to life in the Dark Empire comic book series, he remembered at the very least the details of his defeat and death at the end of his previous life, about which he was very, very, very angry. This extreme anger, combined with the psychotic tendencies induced in his spirit by a mishandling of the cloning process, turned Palpatine into a maniacal nihilist, causing him to lash out at everyone and everything – even, to some extent, his own former Imperials – and try to bring about the destruction of every inhabited world in existence with his Galaxy Gun, a sort of Death Star on steroids. Though much of this is no longer canon, so it still might be true for dark siders.
  • This was a constant danger for Aelita in the first, second, and some of the third season of Code Lyoko. Unlike the other heroes who were "devirtualized" and kicked out of Lyoko if their health reached zero, Aelita was tied too much to Lyoko itself and would cease to exist if it happened. Around the mid-point of season three, however, her powers and ties to the real world evolved enough so that she could survive it too, the "devirtualizing" effect able to restore her as it did the others.
  • While Family Guy does have an afterlife, this is used as a Cutaway Gag in an early episode when Peter talks about how he used to teach Sunday School.
    Peter: And if you are pure of heart and deed, you'll go to a magical place called Heaven! (laughs) I'm just joshing you, you just rot in the ground. (kids look scared)
  • Rick and Morty:
    • In "The Rickchurian Mortydate", Rick outrights state that "There's no afterlife, everything just goes black." as an attempt to threaten a bodyguard to death.
    • In the comics, a short story revolves around Morty having been so traumatized by his dangerous adventures with Rick that he's been having trouble sleeping because he thinks this is what happens when one dies and he doesn't know how to deal with it. When he asks Rick, Rick shows him an alien device that teenagers use as a dare, because it allows someone to experience death for a moment. We never get to see if it's true or not because Morty chickens out when Rick points out that the experience is why he's watching an old Alf marathon in the middle of the night instead of sleeping himself. Presumably, it's either this or something worse.
    • One of the clips in the episode "Morty's Mind Blowers" alludes to this. Rick and Morty meet an alien warrior who wants to die a warrior's death via Rick so he could go into "an orgasmic afterlife". However, Morty accidentally makes the alien question the afterlife's existence, causing the alien to run away in fear not wanting to die... only to get run over by a passing car and being Dragged Off to Hell. Naturally, the guilt drives Morty to want this incident to be erased from his memories.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, should the current Avatar die while they are in the Avatar state, the reincarnation cycle ends with them.
  • In the The Crumpets episode "Belief Relief", while the family discusses what happens to leeks after dying, Ma explains to her husband that there is no afterlife. Their youngest child Li'l-One agrees with her.
    Ma: When we die, we simply die. Lights out.
  • In the The Simpsons episode "The Serfsons", there is a scene where several characters argue about what the afterlife is like. Bart raises the possibility that there is no life after death and that people who die just stop existing.
    Bart: But what if after we die, that's it? We're just gone?
    [Everyone Gasps]
    Wiggum: So just poof? Really? Poof, and then just super nothing?
    Bart: [Shrug]
    Wiggum: Well, it's clean, I'll give you that.
  • BoJack Horseman: Implied in the penultimate episode of the series where BoJack has a Near-Death Experience, which takes the form of a sendoff dinner with the characters who had died during the shows run (as well as before it took place); Herb Kazzaz, Sarah Lynn, Corderoy Jackson, Zach Braff, his mother Beatrice, uncle CrackerJack, as well as a composite of his father Butterscotch and his childhood hero Secretariat, all of whom go through a door to a black void throughout the episode. Herb implies this is what is about to happen.
    BoJack: See you on the other side.
    Herb: Oh BoJack, no. There is no other side. This is it.
  • DuckTales (2017): The master plan of Bradford Buzzard is to get rid of anything he deems "chaotic" or "adventurous" via the "Solego Vortex," which completely erases anything thrown into it (modified from a device that opens portals between dimensions). Bradford's clones and his Dragon Black Heron are thrown in, but the device is disabled before he can erase anything else. That said, he outright refuses to throw Scrooge into the Vortex as he’s more than willing to bet that Scrooge, the master adventurer, will somehow find his way out it, suggesting that even he isn’t 100% confident that being thrown into the Vortex is completely fatal.


Video Example(s):


Other Side

In his dream while drowning, BoJack's tentative belief in the afterlife is flat-out denied by Herb.

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Main / CessationOfExistence

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