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Immortality Hurts

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Kyle: What's the big deal? I mean, I think it'd be pretty cool not to be able to die.
Kenny: "Pretty cool"?! Do you know what it feels like to be stabbed?! To be shot? Decapitated? Torn apart?! Burned?! Run over?!
Stan: Kenny, Kenny, calm down!
Kenny: It's not "pretty cool", Kyle! It fucking HURTS!

Immortality seems to be one of those things that needs a bunch of Required Secondary Powers not to become a curse. If you don't have some kind of healing factor or resistance to injury, you have an eternity's worth of opportunities to get horribly maimed, and if anyone else finds out that you're immortal, they won't think twice about putting you through things that would (painfully) kill an ordinary human being, again and again and again. If you do somehow manage to avoid getting horribly mutilated, escaping the ravages of time is another matter entirely. If you have immortality with youth, there's still plenty of things the Universe can throw at you to make you suffer horrific agony across the vast ocean that is time and space, such as being incinerated inside a star, spaghettified by Black Holes, reduced to plasma by a gamma ray burst, crushed or dissolved into a seething paste by the atmospheres of hostile worlds, and so on and so forth. Even if you do get a fully effective healing factor with your immortality, the fact that all the injuries listed above will heal back doesn't make them any less painful when they happen.

This trope is about what happens when the vaunted promise of immortality backfires in painful fashion. This can range from surviving experiences that aren't meant to be lived through all the way up to cases where something that would ordinarily be decisively fatal instead leaves the victim alive, conscious, and utterly beyond help or hope. Sometimes this is inflicted on someone deliberately as a punishment; of course, this rarely works out as planned.

A subtrope of Who Wants to Live Forever?. Often comes with Healing Factor to ensure Good Thing You Can Heal comes into play. Compare Age Without Youth, where immortality doesn't cover aging, and Wound That Will Not Heal, where any pain inflicted becomes permanent. If none of these things are a problem, then Living Forever Is Awesome.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Since they are all already dead and the entire story takes place in the Afterlife, no character in Angel Beats! can actually be killed permanently- they just return to "life" within a few hours. But suffering enough damage to kill a living person still hurts a lot.
  • Chirico Cuvie from Armored Trooper VOTOMS has a serious case of PTSD due to the trauma of living through countless things that ought to have killed him many times over. Notable incidents include being soaked in burning mech fuel, being shot through the head (several times) and being dissected in an attempt to figure out just how he does it.
  • Csezlaw Meyer of Baccano!. He was tortured by another immortal that he had deeply trusted for at least one hundred years under the pretenses of "testing the limits of immortality". Understandably, at his first opportunity he cut his right hand free to devour his torturer (the only way to kill an immortal, performed by placing your right hand on their head and thinking you want to eat). As if that wasn't enough, devouring absorbs memories, so he has memories of doing all that to himself for a century, along with the knowledge that it was done purely out of sadism.
  • In Blade of the Immortal, the protagonist Manji is cursed with an infestation of "sacred bloodworms" which close and heal any wounds he suffers— even severed limbs. However, Manji still feels the pain of his injuries, and the series is about his quest to redeem himself for his previous crimes to end the curse.
  • In Code Geass, C.C suffers several temporary deaths, including (drumroll, please) being crushed to a paste at the bottom of the ocean. Fortunately, it all happened offscreen.
    • And that's just during the events of the series; Flash Backs to her past reference quite a few horrific deaths in her past, including the iron maiden, guillotine, and burning at the stake, complete with images of her struggling against the ropes and screaming in pain the whole time.
  • Congratulations to Dragon Ball movie villain Garlic Jr., one of only two characters in the entire franchise to ever obtain perfect immortality. Unfortunately, he has this habit of trying to send his enemies through the Dead Zone when he's pissed off instead of just killing them. Naturally, this typically ends in him getting knocked into his own void courtesy of Gohan. Immortality... truly a Fate Worse than Death.
    • This trope is why Frieza gives up on being an Immortality Seeker in Dragon Ball Super: Brolytrapped in his Ironic Hell, Frieza realizes that gaining immortality means being in a state where he is incapacitated and unable to recover. When he's truly resurrected as thanks for participating in the Tournament of Power, he decides to go after the next best thing — being a few centimeters taller.
  • Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess: Eclair might have Complete Immortality, but she still feels pain just like a normal person. She's pretty horrified when she's nearly burned at the stake, and it's why Momon performs a Heroic Sacrifice to save her from that suffering.
  • Due to his immmortality, Utsuro from Gintama was regarded as a monster and thus was captured, tortured, and killed in all imaginable methods for centuries. This led him to create multiple personalities to cope with the trauma, most of which are empty and nihilistic monsters that desire nothing but the death of himself along with the whole world.
  • Is This A Zombie? has this as an important factor for both the main character and Kyouko. While a zombie, Ayumu can still feel any injury he suffers, his non-Magical Girl power attacks break his body painfully, and he painfully dries out in the sun. Kyouko has stolen dozens of lives and so isn't afraid to die or be horribly maimed in combat, though she does still suffer pain.
    • Perhaps the most clear example of this was when Ayumu used his chainsaw to kill a downed Kyouko repeatedly while she was incapacitated, complete with constant screams of pain. And she was still alive and terrified afterward.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
  • This comes up in Mnemosyne — the immortal protagonist gets put through a lot of pain and suffering. The tagline for its trailers was "It only hurts forever."
  • Hidan from Naruto has the ability to turn himself into a living voodoo doll and kill his opponents by performing self-multitalion. His partner isn't very sympathetic when he specifically comments on how painful decapitation (and being picked up by the hair afterward) is. Then there is the And I Must Scream solution Shikamaru comes up with to deal with his immortality - although supplemental material stated he would eventually die from starvation. However it's never stated how long must he endure it - could range from months to years - before eventually rotting to death while still conscious.
  • The Big Bad of Ninja Scroll comes to seriously regret his immortality when he is gutted, covered in molten gold, and dropped to the bottom of the sea.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena: Anthy is an immortal "Wicked Witch" (and implied Physical God), doomed to forever serve as The Scapegoat for humanity's fury over "losing" their Prince. Said hatred manifests as a million invisible swords constantly impaling her body. As if her life wasn't bad enough already...
  • Discussed in So I'm a Spider, So What?. Kumoko survives having her body destroyed by Ariel thanks to the Immortality skill but is left waiting several days while regenerating a new body from her head. She muses that if she lacked the self-healing abilities it would be entirely possible to be reduced to a still-conscious paste incapable of doing anything but suffer.
  • In UQ Holder!, Karin feels the pain of the damage dealt to her, but her body cannot be damaged, making her nigh perfectly immortal. It is at many points discussed whether it is a blessing or a curse, but either way it doesn't seem as awesome as it looks. Moreso, this becomes suddenly terrifying when she nearly falls into a star, and realize she might spend the next billions of years being continuously burnt to death
  • Zeno from Yona of the Dawn has an interesting variation: he can survive getting his head or arms chopped off, as his body will simply come back together; and when he heals his body becomes covered in scales as hard as steel, giving his attacks much more strength. This makes him a veritable One-Man Army... but, of course, this is only after getting injured. Beforehand, he's a short, thin, physically weak 17-year-old boy, which means that fighting anyone essentially requires him to suffer through what would kill a normal person multiple times. By the time his power is revealed in-series, he seems more or less desensitized to it, though he's clearly in a lot of pain, but his backstory arc shows him to have been terrified of the prospect.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, Kurama traps Elder Toguro in a plant which gives its victims visions of their worst fears while slowly draining the life out of them. Unfortunately for Elder Toguro, his regenerative capabilities surpass the draining capabilities of the plant, so he'll forever live his nightmare of being unable to kill Kurama.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Sandman (1989), the immortal Hob Gadling once comments on how it feels to starve when you are unable to die. Although when promptly offered the chance to renounce his immortality, he turns it down, as he has so much to live for. Being immortal, he always has the chance to improve his lot (and indeed, the next time he meets his benefactor, he's pulled himself into high society). The whole point of his first story (besides its reflection on Morpheus's character) is to subvert the Hell out of this trope because, for all its suffering, life is worth living and certainly preferable than the alternative. It's a bit weird in a comic where Death is so nice, but it works very nicely, especially with Gadling's later appearances.
    • Cain and Abel. Abel is the first victim, and so he has to spend eternity reliving his story by having Cain repeatedly murder him on a daily basis, sometimes in rather horrid ways. Cain is the first murderer, and so he has to spend eternity reliving his story by murdering his brother on a daily basis. Their family dynamic is a little disturbed.
  • In Animal Man, Crafty, an anthropomorphic cartoon coyote, comes to the "real world" (the comic books world, actually) and retains his ability to regenerate himself from every mortal wound. But instead of being innocent and bloodless, like on his cartoons, well... let's just say how Morrison describes, and SHOWS it, it goes just gross.
  • Wolverine's near-immortality allowed him through the years to survive many things that would make a normal man beg for death, including multiple injections of molten metal into his bones and several instances of being burned alive.
    • Some versions of his origins put forth the notion that the adamantium bonded to his skeleton is constantly poisoning him, and that his healing factor is constantly regenerating from this, which means Logan is in constant pain every minute he's alive.
  • In Fables, Goldilocks is immortal as long as she remains a popular character. It leads to a tragicomic scene where she takes an axe to the head, gets shot, hit by a truck, thrown off the cliff into the river and nibbled on by the fish all the way to the sea (which took over a week of constant drowning and returning to life). Any of the other fables are the same, if they have the same or better popularity.
  • Lucifer has a single issue detailing an immortal woman who was cursed with eternal life in Phoenician times for disrespect to the gods. Part of that curse is that her body basically repeats what it was doing when she was cursed, day after day— and she miscarried a few hours before she was cursed.
  • In Phil Foglio's adaptation of Myth Adventures, the villain Isstvan has suffered through this for (presumably) centuries. The whole plot is set in motion because he's trying to get himself killed. In a bit of a subversion, it's hinted he was crazy even before all this happened to him.
  • Probably what Jhiaxus feels in the IDW Transformers continuity, as it means that bitter former guinea pig Arcee can torture him indefinitely.
  • The biggest downside of the immortality that Vandal Savage possesses is that it prevents him from removing the agonizing intestinal cancer he was suffering from at the time he became immortal. He won't die from it, being immortal, but his life is one of constant pain.
  • Marvel's Mister Immortal's power has him instantly return from the dead whenever he dies, in perfect health. However, the pain of dying often leaves him in an Unstoppable Rage that he uses to defeat his opponents.
  • In one horror comic, a mysterious stranger convinces a man to let him give him immortality, only for the man to decide he doesn't want it and return to the stranger seeking to be restored to mortality. Instead, he's run through a device that converts him into a liquid form and put into a sturdy pressurized metal container where he's constantly regenerating only to die from being crushed and suffocated to death in an endless cycle, and he's aware throughout every second of it and will be trapped like that for ages.
  • The Mighty Thor was, for a time, cursed by Hela simultaneously to never die and never heal. Oh, and he got his face scratched up by poisoned claws not too long after, leaving him in constant pain. He grew out his beard to hide the scars.
  • Beast Wars: Uprising: While this version of Rampage is much less of a maniac than his Beast Wars counterpart, one thing they share is tremendous familiarity with pain, which has left him as something of a Death Seeker. He gets flashback sequences where he's repeatedly killed to test his immortality, and then spends his current circumstances doing things like serving as a living crumple zone to absorb fall damage for his companions.

    Fan Works 
  • In Luminosity, the Volturi keep several vampires torn apart until/if they can be convinced to join them. This hurts even more than you would expect, because vampires have an enhanced sense of touch. And perfect memories.
  • The angels in Weightless, and how. First off, they're kept as sex slaves and ridiculously dehumanized; secondly, they have an incredible Healing Factor, meaning that people can do whatever they want to an angel without having to worry about damaging it permanently and often torture them for fun, and they can't even kill themselves to escape it.
  • Xander uses this to talk down Shepard in The Zeppo Effect after she discovers his immortality when he electrocutes himself so the team could escape a Death Trap. Not only is death still incredibly painful but knowing that it isn't permanent doesn't make it any less terrifying for him or Buffy and Willow.
  • A popular piece of Hetalia: Axis Powers fanon is that the Nations live as long as the country they personify lasts. Between this and the fact that a lot of the series depicts the Nations interacting in battle (most notably World War II), many fanfictions show the Nations suffering diseases and injuries that could kill a normal person, only for them to manage to survive.
    • Awakening has an incredibly disturbing variation. The initial experiments Josef Mengele performs on America and Canada (infection with tuberculosis and vivisection and injection of dye into the eyes respectively) don't kill them, but do leave them in immense pain. Injecting chemicals directly into their hearts is the closest to killing them he manages. They show all the signs of being dead (no pulse, no breathing, etc.) but come back to life once their hearts are restarted.
    • For a fanfiction that has this happen in a non-war setting Trials has Canada Buried Alive by a serial killer and forced to repeatedly come back to life, only to asphyxiate over and over.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Groundhog Day: Phil, while stuck in the time loop.
    Phil: I have been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted, and burned.
  • Death Becomes Her: Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep become immortal, but they can still be injured (though it doesn't hurt). They beat each other up a lot. At the end of the film, they're both shattered to pieces but still alive, as the immortality method does nothing about preserving the physical body, just prevents their souls from leaving it.
  • Highlander contains a scene set sometime during the 18th century in which Connor McLeod shows up to fight a duel while stinking drunk. His opponent swiftly runs him through to no effect, since Connor is both immortal and too drunk to pretend otherwise, (this was before the idea of temporary death, which only was shown in the TV series) and simply gets right back up. A montage of Connor getting run through repeatedly ensues, until finally, still drunk, Connor apologizes for his behavior towards his opponent's wife and wanders off none the worse for wear. The other guy's face is priceless.
  • Men in Black: The character Jack Jeebs has a Healing Factor so powerful he can survive even if the Chunky Salsa Rule is invoked! Though as he remarks after K quite literally blew his head off, "Don't you have any idea how much that stings!?" Oh yeah, it sucks to be Jeebs.
    Jeebs: Oh great, right in the piehole! Now nothing's gonna taste right.
  • Men in Black II: Jeebs looks a little worse for wear in comparison to the first movie. According to the fillmakers, not all parts grow back the same. In the animated series, Jeebs's brother shows up at one point and reveals that, in his family, blasting each other pretty much means "Hello", although it's usually Jeebs who gets blasted.
  • In The Mummy (1999), Imhotep is cursed with immortality specifically so he could suffer And I Must Scream. (Unfortunately, the curse in question transforms him into The Punishment if he is ever released.)
  • The Old Guard: Andy's original partner Quynh, upon being accused of witchcraft in the Middle Ages, was locked inside an iron maiden and dumped in the Atlantic Ocean. Due to how immortality works in this film, that means that she's spent centuries drowning, coming back to life, and drowning again. This is a large part of why the immortals keep their nature secret.
  • In the background events of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Will's father was stuck at the bottom of the ocean, constantly crushed by the pressure but unable to die. At least until he got shanghaied by Davy Jones.
  • The Return of the Living Dead.
    Ernie: Why do you eat people?
    Zombie: Not people. Brains.
    Ernie: Brains only?
    Zombie: Yes.
    Ernie: Why?
    Zombie: The PAIN!
    Ernie: What about the pain?
    Zombie: The pain of being DEAD!
    Ernie: It hurts... to be dead.
    Zombie: I can feel myself rotting.
    Ernie: Eating brains... How does that make you feel?
    Zombie: It makes the pain go away!
  • In the first Wishmaster film, the heroine wishes for the evil djinn to blow his own brains out. He promptly pulls out a revolver and does so. The Djinn quickly heals from this and informs her that he's immortal but adds that it "hurt like hell!"
  • Inverted in The Wolverine. When he was immortal, Wolverine's wounds healed quicker and so the pain faded faster. When he loses his healing factor, the wounds and their pain linger.
    • Quietly played straight in the first X-Men film, when Rogue asks Logan whether it hurts when his trademark blades emerge fron his hands. After a slight hesitation, he states simply, "Every time."
    • Logan: thanks to his advanced age and possible metal poisoning from his Adamantium-reinforced skeleton, his healing factor isn't what it used to be, and as a result, he is covered in scars and open wounds (which apparently get infected on a regular basis), is visibly stiff and arthritic, has vision and hearing issues, and intermittently has his claws get stuck halfway, which requires him to pull them the rest of the way out and visibly causes incredible pain. It's also caused his drinking to go from heavy but reasonably well-managed to absolutely out of control, and he is frequently visibly drunk or hungover due to his metabolism slowing down. The years have not been kind to the man.
  • In the opening of the first Blade movie, Blade dispatches Deacon Frost's Dragon Quinn, a vampire who can heal from most injuries. Blade notes that he's run into the guy so many times by that point that he's getting bored with hacking him up all the time, and tries burning him to a crisp instead — which still doesn't hold. Later, Frost himself messes with Quinn as well by pretending that he's gonna chop off his arms again, then stops at the last second.
  • In The 6th Day, the bad guys use cloning as a form of Resurrective Immortality. Whenever one of them dies, his or her "synchording" (a snapshot of the brain) is taken and downloaded into a newly-cloned body. The side effects of doing this to a dead person include the fact that he or she feels the pain of death and can still react to it for some time after "coming back". A Mook who gets a Neck Snap from Arnie "wakes up" with a horrible neck pain and keeps rubbing it afterwards. A female Mook complains about having to pierce her ears again (not to mention the fact that she's also a virgin).
  • Zardoz: Because no Eternal can die, the only punishment against "Renegades" is aging them into senility.

  • In Dragon Bones there is Oreg, who is immortal, and also a slave who is bound by magic to the owner of castle Hurog. His physical body can be hurt, but only his owner can kill him. He frequently has flashbacks of being tortured. By someone who was not his owner. After all, one wouldn't want to kill such an useful slave. Oh, and he is a powerful mage, which means that when he re-lives his traumatizing experiences, others can actually hear the whip, and see the wounds on his body. Quite probably, he also goes through all of the pain again on those occasions. Ward eventually kills him, freeing him from that Fate Worse than Death.
  • In the Belgariad, the gods have no Healing Factor because, being invulnerable, they have no need for it. When Torak finds out the hard way they aren't invulnerable to things more powerful than themselves, he spends the rest of his life in terrible agony from the resulting burn. The immortal archmage Zedar is condemned to eternity sealed in solid rock.
  • Never Dead Ned from In the Company of Ogres retains most of the scars and injuries that kill him, only healing just enough to keep him alive afterhe resurrects. It's made clear that this situation isn't ideal, his whole body riddled with scars and one of his arms barely works anymore.
  • The titular artifact of The Legends of Ethshar novel The Misenchanted Sword grants its owner eternal life so long as they retain their ownership. However, this portion of the magic has two staggering flaws that the first, and so far only, wielder discovered. First, it doesn't prevent the wielder from aging, and will in fact prevent a natural death. Second, it will only prevent the wielder from dying. It is perfectly alright with letting them be maimed, blinded, or any number of other horrible things that happen when one wields a bloodthirsty sword.
  • In On a Pale Horse, if Death does not collect an assigned soul at its time, the person cannot die. But they remain in agony until their soul is taken. His first client had her neck broken from a shard of glass, and was in intense pain until Death took her soul from her body.
  • Apeshit takes this about as far as it can go. Immortality means surviving everything from splattered brains to being sodomized with a kitchen knife.
  • In Elantris, the Elantrians used to be Physical Gods, but ten years before the book starts they developed an extreme case of this: Every wound they suffer is a Wound That Will Not Heal, eventually driving them insane from the pain. Most don't last a year.
  • In Tolkien's Legendarium, not only do Elves not die of old age (though to be fair they don't really age either), but their bodies can only be destroyed by the most extreme sorts of injuries. This makes torturing an Elf particularly "fun." One Elf, Maedhros, was taken captive by Melkor and hung by the wrist of his right hand on a cliff face for decades until he had gone quite suicidal.
  • In the short story "Gilgamesh in the Outback", when people die, they end up in Hell. Now, in this story, Hell isn't really a bad place. You can eat normal food (but have a real hard time passing it) and can have sex (but no orgasm). And, when you die, the Undertaker fixes you up and returns you eventually... but you feel ALL of the pain involved in your death. Get shot, and you feel the pain until you die and remember it when you come back.
  • In the Magic: The Gathering book The Thran a planeswalker (read:god) is betrayed and captured. They can instantly regenerate any injury, and teleport across dimensions at will. So a drill is inserted into her head, constantly scrambling her brain to prevent her from teleporting, while the Phyrexians vivisect her.
    • Note that these are Classic Planeswalkers, pre-Mending. New-Planeswalkers aren't immortal.
  • Old Scores: Of the four vampires in the novel, they endure beatings, stabbings, slashes, telekinetically broken bones, biceps clawed to shreds of muscle, stabbing through the heart, and opened chest cavities, and only two of them die.
  • Casca: The Eternal Mercenary has this built right in. Casca can't die, or even be maimed, until Jesus comes back. Thus, he manages to survive many deaths over the course of the series, up to and including drowning and reviving uncountable times in an underground river and having his beating heart cut out of his chest in a ritual sacrifice.
  • The parahuman ability of Grey Boy from Worm is to inflict a Time Loop Trap on anyone he touches. Worse, he can interact and inflict injuries on people trapped this way so that they constantly feel their bodies get stabbed, revert, get stabbed again, etc. over and over again for potentially thousands of years. Even among the other sociopaths from the Slaughterhouse Nine, he was one of the most feared.
  • In Vulkan Lives, Vulkan is revealed to be immortal, capable of regenerating from anything that can kill him. The Night Haunter tests the limits of his immortality very thoroughly.
  • The vampires from The Vampire Chronicles can heal from just about anything, given time, blood, and the right replacement parts. However, if they're limited to human blood, rather than the medicinally more potent blood of other, ancient vampires, healing from severe wounds can take years, and they feel pain as acutely as humans.
  • In Line of Delirium, the aTan technology allows Resurrective Immortality. However, to even get to it, one must first undergo an excruciating molecular scan in order to get the person's body template into the aTan databanks for future replication. The pain is so great that a certain percentage of new clients quit partway through and walk out, refusing immortality. Despite decades of study, aTan researchers are no closer to making the process less painful. Additionally, anyone who dies and is brought back remembers everything up to the moment of death, including the circumstances, which can be quite traumatic for some types of violent death. Every aTan facility employs a "thanatologist", a counselor specializing in helping people come back from death. For example, Kay's first death in the book is from an Agony Beam weapon coupled with him being covered in razor-sharp fix-spray (he cut his own body to pieces by jerking and spasming from the induced pain).
  • Somewhither: Ilya comes from a race of people who have Complete Immortality and a Healing Factor — but no immunity to pain. Several times he complains that it doesn't make sense for an immortal to feel pain, since it's after all a warning sign to avoid injury and damage, and so useless to someone who doesn't have to watch out for his life. It also lets the bad guys torture him in creative ways for months—especially when they use special magic to almost entirely nullify his Healing Factor, forcing him to endure the agony of spilled guts and broken bones for a very long time...
  • Rhulad Sengar, the Emperor of a Thousand Deaths, from the Malazan Book of the Fallen doesn't bear physical scars from his deaths (though, to be fair, he is already scarred so badly it would be difficult to tell anyway), but every time he gets resurrected by his sword, his psyche breaks more and more. In Reaper's Gale, the results are noticed by several people around him and it is utterly pitiful.
  • Those infected with the needle symbiote in Eden Green and sequel New Night are not immune to the agony of regrowing destroyed parts of their bodies.
  • The Daily Struggles of an Immortal plays with this. The main character, Sam Archer, feels the pain when he's injured, although he has yet to find anything he cannot recover from, and those who know about his condition exploit it from the vampire who repeatedly feeds on him to his co-worker who keeps dropping their phone in the personal disintegrator, and needs it retrieved. He undergoes a daily regimen of self-harm to better inure himself to the likely future pain.
  • Lyctors in The Locked Tomb series can be killed permanently in battle, but due to their powerful Healing Factor it is difficult to do so. They feel every bit of pain from any horrible maiming they suffer that would kill normal humans. Lyctorhood also never removed the cancer from Cytherea's body, only trapped her in a permanent, agonizing advanced stage of the disease for the last 10,000 years.
  • Being a god, Xie Lian from Heaven Official’s Blessing: Tian Guan Ci Fu can't die, but can still feel the effects of injury. This is used against him when the villain orchestrates his torture through being repeatedly fatally stabbed, to the point where his entire narration becomes a repeated "IT HURTS IT HURTS IT HURTS IT HURTS".
  • The Stormlight Archive:
    • The Fused are Time Abyss spirits who return to the world during Desolations and get reincarnated into new host bodies whenever their bodies die. The process is agonizing to the body and every reincarnation damages the Fused's mind, to the point that many of them are now babbling lunatics.
    • As Rhythm of War reveals, this is also how you "kill" spren. Without anti-Light or Nightblood, you can't truly kill spren. But you can cut or stab or bash them, and this will cause them pain. So "killing" a spren usually involves stabbing it so many times that its mind breaks from the pain and it goes catatonic.
  • Wings of Fire: Darkstalker, who made himself immortal with animus magic, is trapped underground, starving but unable to die. While he is unconscious most of this time, he ends up waking up after 2000 years and remains conscious in this state for six months before being freed.
  • Nolan of the Ashtown Burials series has a Healing Factor which involves peeling his own skin off, for starters. Over the course of three books, he is shot, stabbed, severely burned, overdosed with spider venom, and caught in an explosion that leaves him looking as though he's been "sanded by an avalanche". A lot of this is down to his tendency to go human shield for his allies. He also doesn't technically need to breathe or eat, though he still feels the effects of drowning or starvation and prefers to avoid that. The severe depression also doesn't help.
    Nolan: For the record, we do feel pain. We just don't die.
  • Area 51: Though being immortal is sought after, its nature in the series means you still die from fatal wounds, but resurrect shortly after as your Healing Factor kicks in. As a result, an immortal can be continually tortured and or killed while still coming back. Aspasia's Shadow and Lisa find this out the hard way.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Whoniverse:
    • The immortality of Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood. He dies, then simply comes back to life a short while later. Some of his enemies really enjoy killing him, in which case this ends up happening every few minutes or so.
      • In "Children of Earth", we get to see him come back from being blown to smithereens — and it's not pleasant. His body literally grows back layer by layer, and he regains consciousness as soon as his organs are working, but before his skin is fully done healing. He does a lot of screaming that season.
      • In "Miracle Day", all humans get to experience this, in majestically graphic detail. Hence the profits of PhiCorps skyrocketing when their highly-effective painkillers begin selling like hotcakes.
    • Doctor Who:
      • Time Lords can regenerate into a new form if their current body gives out from injury or old age. Unfortunately, it's almost always a Painful Transformation, and the aftermath can involve a host of side-effects as they struggle to rebuild their identity. note  The fact that the Doctor's regenerations generally take place in traumatic, world-threatening circumstances can't help.
      Sarah Jane Smith: Did it hurt? I mean, the regeneration?
      Eleventh Doctor:...It always hurts.
      • While Time Lords have absurdly long lives, they note in the original series that they consider true immortality to be a curse, so much so that they use it as a punishment at one point.
  • The Twilight Zone:
    • The Twilight Zone (1959): In the episode "Escape Clause", a guy makes a Deal with the Devil to live forever. Getting bored with life over the decades, he eventually amuses himself by committing crimes. When he is finally caught and arrested, he gets a life sentence. He then pleads with the devil to die, and the devil grants his wish.
    • The Twilight Zone (2002): The Angel of Death decides to slack off from his job for a day, which has some Unfortunate Implications for some firefighters arriving at a hospital, burnt to a crisp but still alive.
  • In True Blood, the vampires' bodies regenerate when they're injured. While this is generally a pretty good thing, it can have repercussions.
    • Jessica discovers a nasty side effect of regeneration. She's a virgin when she gets turned, has sex for the first time in her vampire form, and then discovers that her hymen grows back. After each time. Forever.note 
    • Russell Edgington experiences the punishment kind; buried alive in concrete while tied up in silver (silver immobilizes vampires and hurts them badly). Also in Bill's trial we learn that the punishment for killing another vampire is to be buried alive in a silver coffin for years.
  • Buffyverse:
    • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
      • In "The Zeppo", Xander gets undead sociopath Jack to back down and deactivate his bomb in the school basement by pointing out how immortality won't be any fun when he's blown to bits. The story thankfully didn't dwell on the aspect of Jack and his undead pals being decapitated, crushed, or eaten.
      • In "Choices", affable villain Mayor Wilkins ended up the one to get Buffy and Angel to seriously consider their relationship when he relates how painful it was to watch his mortal wife grow old and die while he stayed the same.
    • Angel:
      • In "Tomorrow", Connor traps Angel in a box and drops the box in the ocean, theoretically for eternity.
      • In "Hell Bound", there was a ghost who didn't want to go to hell, so he sent other spirits in his place. In the end, he was made corporeal and trapped in (another) box, destined to spend eternity not going to hell, but staring at a brick wall out the small window.
  • Highlander:
    • An immortal Nazi got chained up and dumped in a river for 60-odd years, coming to life and drowning every few minutes. When he finally gets out, he's a bit peeved.
    • Another adversary was left on a deserted island. After eating everything on it, he starved to death. Then came back. And starved to death again...
    • There was also an immortal who was one of Cleopatra's attendants, and ended up entombed for 2000 years. The likelihood that she repeatedly revived and then died again of asphyxiation in the sealed tomb isn't brought up in the episode, but it would explain her insanity when she got out.
    • Killian, after committing war crimes during WWI, is locked away, and after a few years, completely forgotten. The tribunal who sentenced him were initially going to execute him, but Duncan, the only witness, wanting to keep him from wandering off after his execution, argued he was insane, and thus deserved 'mercy' and life imprisonment instead. (Screw the Masquerade, apparently.) 80 years later, when he eventually gets out, he decides to return the favour.
    • Another immortal blames Duncan for leaving him to be burned at the stake. He then proceeds to graphically describe the feeling of his skin and organs burning and regrowing.
  • The Big Bad of Volume Two of Heroes has a Healing Factor that makes him immortal. At the end of the season, he is buried alive in a coffin. When the heroes need his help the next season and dig him up, they find him still alive and very, very pissed.
  • Arvin Sloan of Alias is currently trapped under large rocks in a tomb, several hundred feet underground and alone but he is alive and seemingly immortal. It is implied that his fate is to spend eternity trapped in this place.
  • Henry from Forever (2014) dies and comes back quite a bit, and comments that dying still hurts regardless. He can often be rather blase about a painful death (killing himself with poison to get a test result without the three week wait for example), but when he's faced with the possibility of having to go through being dissected again, he starts panicking and packing his bags immediately. Adam reveals that he once did undergo constant dissection and torture under the scalpel of the infamous Dr. Mengele in Auschwitz, who was trying to figure out the secret to immortality. The last episode has Henry deal with Adam by giving him a brain embolism, paralyzing him and keeping him on perpetual life support. While dying would fix the problem, Henry has no intention of letting that happen.
  • The X-Files: In "Tithonus" (inspired by the Greek myth of a man who asked for eternal life but forgot about eternal youth), the immortal character suffers from the constant misery of being alone, changing his identity periodically so no one will know his secret and wishing only to die. He once tried to look up what had become of his wife, but found he couldn't even remember her name after so long. In the end, he finally gets his wish and is killed. It's implied that his immortality is transferred to Scully.
  • Stargate-verse:
    • The Goa'uld distorted the healing use of sarcophagi for the purpose of a particularly painful punishment against one of them (whose crimes were high even by Goa'uld standards). They locked up the convicted person inside a sarcophagus with a fierce alien wild beast. In that way, the goa'uld was condemned to fight eternally against the animal since their respective injuries were constantly healed by the machine they were trapped in.
    • Teal'c was tortured to death and resurrected with a sarcophagus successively by a Jaffa who wanted to extort from him a filmed admission that Goa'uld are true gods.
  • Marcus Pierce/Cain in Lucifer (2016) is immortal and has a Healing Factor with no known limit, but still feels all the pain of his injuries. It's just that none of them take, much as he wishes they would. The man has been vertically bisected, and once tries dying by jumping into a volcano. It took six months but he healed back to normal.
    Lucifer: Y'know, for an immortal, you really do bleed a lot, don't you?
  • Kamen Rider Wizard sentences the immortal Phantom Phoenix to the fate of burning up in the sun for all eternity. He'll keep living as he's revived each time; the pain will just never stop, and he'll never be strong enough to leave.
  • Gotham: It turns out that being immortal hurts like hell for Ra's al Ghul, and he wants to die. Bruce thus kills him at his request.

  • In "Xanadu" by Rush, the narrator clearly regrets having become immortal, since now he is trapped in the Pleasure Dome forever, the stars do not change, and he has clearly gone insane.
  • Type O Negative's "Suspended in Dusk" is about a vampire who has been dealing with being unable to be out in daylight or feel "the comfort of a grave" as well as seeing his "loves grow old and wither" over the past 400 years.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • In Greek Mythology, the gods are immortal to the extent that nothing can kill them. But they lack full regenerative powers, resulting in lasting injuries.
    • Uranus got castrated by Kronos.
    • Hephaestus was left with a permanent limp after getting in the way of his father's Masochism Tango.
    • Prometheus can regenerate, which isn't fun when his liver is torn out of his body every day by a hungry eagle. Also, according to the ancient Greek drama, the chains that hold him to the rock include a metal spike going through his chest. Unusually for Greek myths, this has a happy ending; Heracles slew the eagle and broke the chains that held him.
    • Chiron the centaur was gifted with immortality, but was allowed to renounce it when accidentally shot by Hercules: the arrow, poisoned with the Hydra's bile, caused an unhealing, festering wound, unable to kill the centaur but causing him constant agony. In some version of the myth he was freed when he gave up his immortality in exchange for Prometheus's freedom and was placed in the heavens as the constellation Centaurus or Sagittarius. Other versions have him somehow give his immortality to Prometheus, who was already immortal. The copyists probably made a mistake somewhere.
    • Tithonus was a mortal gifted with eternal life by the goddess Eos, who had kidnapped him to be her lover. Unfortunately, she forgot to give him (or ask for) eternal youth as well, so he just gets older, and older... Tennyson wrote a rather horrifying poem about it.
  • The Bible:
    • Book of Revelation: John witnesses a plague of "locusts" (with human faces, women's hair, lion's teeth, and scorpion's tails) that terrorize the unsaved for about half a year; their venom inflicts a pain so severe that the afflicted want to kill themselves, but it also renders them unable to die. Revelations refers to it as the Second Death, but that's because of its finality and totality, not because those cast into the Lake of Fire are annihilated. Far from it. The inhabitants are immortal and not consumed by the flames, but quite capable of being tortured by them.
    • The Four Gospels: In order for Jesus to die and fulfill the prophecies throughout the rest of the Bible, he had to subject himself to the most painful death penalty the Roman state could muster. At the end of "Good Friday" he had the skin flayed from his back, nail-sized thorns driven into his head, nails driven through all four limbs, severe life-threatening sunburns... and he was awake for every second of it.
  • Norse Mythology: Loki at one point gets drunk, crashes a party, and starts insulting all the other gods. Whereupon the other gods tie him to a rock in a cave, and hang a snake above his face. Every time the snake's venom drips into his eyes, Loki thrashes in pain, causing earthquakes.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons: Captain Scarlett is a Mysteron body double who regained his identity after falling off a building. He is indestructible because his body will regenerate after being killed, but that apparently doesn't make death any less painful for him. Which may explain why he seems so grumpy all the time.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Exalted, it was impossible on a conceptual level for a Primordial to die. Unfortunately, when the Exalted rose against them, the Primordials found out the hard way that being unable to die didn't quite prevent the Exalted from killing them, it just meant that they couldn't die once killed. This paradox broke the cycle of life and death, creating undeath and the Underwold and leaving the killed Primordials trapped halfway between death and life as the Neverborn.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In Third Edition, if you're willing to believe him, Asmodeus, after being thrown through Baator, has suffered from bleeding, unhealing wounds for millennia.
  • Delta Green has the Disciples of the Worm. Thanks to a very interesting accident in a monastery devoted to extraplanar travel via meditation, the cult's founder got an astral parasite stuck inside him. The plus side is, the parasite's waste byproducts induced a state of immortality with associated Healing Factor. The minus side is, the parasites are active, writhing, and given to reproduce quickly, putting their hosts in excruciating pain. To even be able to function while infested requires large amounts of opioids... and between that and magic that allows for extradimensional travel, the cult has managed to become a powerful player in drug smuggling.

    Video Games 
  • In the Touhou Project, Fujiwara no Mokou and Kaguya-hime both have resurrective immortality and hate each other's guts, so they spend their time killing each other.
    • The boss fight against Mokou involves killing her over and over and over until she's in too much pain to move any more. The youkai member of each party then tries to convince the human member to rip out Mokou's guts and eat them to gain immortality (or in Yuyuko's case, contemplates doing it herself; how immortality would affect somebody who's already a ghost is unclear).
    • On the other hand, Mokou seems to have developed enough pain tolerance that she finds it preferable to continuously freeze or starve to death than to heat her house or gather food. Despite the fact that with her power of complete control over fire, it should be a trivial exercise to heat her house.
  • Nessiah of Yggdra Union, Yggdra Unison, and Blaze Union is relatively blase about simply dying—he's been through it so many times that he's gotten used to the pain, and in Yggdra Union and Blaze Union, he dies slowly and painfully several times onscreen, mostly from being skewered or badly beaten. He is extremely not blase about the fact that his real body is slowly beginning to rot. One of Blaze Union's endings has him lose his ability to manifest separately, thus confining him to that decaying body forever. The game tries not to draw too much attention to this. Wonder why.
  • Raven from the Guilty Gear franchise is an immortal who can still feel pain, and he's happy about it.
  • Darth Sion in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords inverts cause and effect; he's immortal precisely because of his vast number of painful injuries, taking the regular Sith ability to draw power from their own pain and rage and using that power to keep going despite the fact he shouldn't even be able to move without falling apart. Attacking him with weapons accomplishes nothingnote , and he only goes down after the Exile points out he isn't getting anything worthwhile out of his undead existence.
  • In The Exiled Prince, from the Dark Parables saga, this is the curse upon The Frog Prince. He remains young and handsome while his princess grows old and dies. And then he turns back into a frog, and stays one until he meets his second wife. And then he goes through the same thing with her, and then his third wife, and then his fourth.
  • Part of the Neverwinter Nights mod Shadowlords 5 took place in a town where nobody died, ever. One of the sidequests involved a woman who was buried alive in a trunk by a guy with an "If I can't have you, nobody can" attitude, while a minor encounter involved killing a bear which had been attacking another woman over and over again. If questioned about it afterwards, she shared the story of how she was once pinned down by a pack of ravenous wolves and it took a week for them to eat enough of her legs to become full.
  • Clinkz, the Bone Fletcher, from Dota 2. A demon was causing destruction around The Hoven, and a mage cast a spell that would grant eternal life as a reward to anyone who killed it. Clinkz went to fight the demon, not knowing that he would become immortal doing so, and was blasted with hellfire just as his final arrow killed the demon. This ends up turning him into an immortal skeleton, stuck in an eternal state of burning to death.
  • The Nameless One from Planescape: Torment. As seen in the title, "torment" is a recurring theme of the game and the immortal protagonist has suffered so much, both physically, emotionally and spiritually, from his immortality that he's essentially become a Doom Magnet through the power of belief. It's implied his presence represents a concentration of suffering so potent it's slowly killing the Multiverse.
  • In the end of Mortal Kombat X, Shinnok learns the hard way that being an immortal Elder God doesn't mean he's safe from "fates worse than death" when Dark Raiden cuts his head off. Shinnok is still alive in this state and in obvious agony. He can't even scream in pain since he doesn't have lungs.
  • The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories: J.J. is able to will herself and her body back to life out of a desire to protect her girlfriend Emily. Unfortunately, she also has to deliberately mutilate herself in order to advance through the island and she screams in agony every time she dies. Near the end of the game, she rants about how painful it is to lose a limb in graphic detail.
  • The Dammed in Tomb Raider III are a group of homeless men that were suckered in by Sofia's promise of employment in her cosmetics company, only for her to perform terrible experiments on them and then booted down to the sewers when she presumed they were dead. Due to the experiments, the Dammed are immortal and cannot die, but their flesh is rotting due to their bodies decaying from their previous "deaths". The Damned all wear hoodies and masks to conceal their rotting flesh. The Damned's leader asks Lara to get them embalming fluid so that they can preserve what little skin they have left on their bodies.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ozmafia!!!!: The ruling class of the town is immortal, but can be permanently disfigured and experience horrific injuries.
  • Ever17:
    • Despite an inherent Healing Factor cutting down on recovery time, the Curé Virus doesn't prevent injuries from hurting like hell. Aloof girl Tsugumi might say that they want to die, but when stabbed in the leg with a fallen water pipe, water rising as they quickly lose blood, they quickly start to worry about how cold they're getting.
    • Also a briefly Discussed Trope on Tsugumi's route. Takeshi argues that going through bad times is okay in the end, because you still get to experience being alive. Tsugumi makes her counterpoint by crushing her (also immortal) hamster into a bloody pulp, asking Takeshi if it's really okay that she did that, just because it survived in the end.

  • In 8-Bit Theater, at some point Red Mage is on fire and set up an Auto-Revive that activates every time the fire kills him instead of, you know, stopping dropping and rolling. Thief is curious:
    Thief: That doesn't hurt at all? The spell that brings you back.
    Red Mage: Oh, it's quite excruciating. (beat) At least it's not as bad as the burning."
  • In El Goonish Shive, Nanase can create a "fairy doll" proxy body. She doesn't die if the doll is destroyed and can instantly create a new one. She does, however, feel everything the doll feels. In Wrath of God, she must keep Abraham from killing Ellen, using only the fairy doll spell and the newly-acquired "fae punch" spell. Abraham destroys every doll, yet Nanase has no choice but to keep coming back.
    • That page is called To Die a Dozen Deaths.
  • The demon Azuu of Elijah and Azuu says this verbatim after suffering a particularly painful assault from his girlfriend, in a direct reference to Jackie Chan Adventures (see below).
  • In Homestuck, Her Imperious Condescension communing with Jade threatens a painful death if Roxy doesn't cooperate with her plans. She then points out that, as the victim is a god tier and has conditional Resurrective Immortality, it probably won't stick, which means she'll be able to do it over and over again, "until you finally get tired of dying and follow your orders".
  • Jackson Wells in Zoophobia is immortal thanks to his mother making a Deal with the Devil, but it also made him supernaturally predisposed towards bad luck. A few strips after his first appearance his head gets crushed by a falling stage light.
  • The Immortals of Sithrak in Oglaf aren't immune to injury at all, though they do at least seem to have a very high pain tolerance. At one point Morag is beheaded, and only able to describe how it happened when somebody blows air up through her severed windpipe. Word of God says she's still just a head.

    Web Original 
  • The concept of the story "Immortality Blows". The main character is eventually lift drifting through space forever after the heat death of the universe.
  • Hinted at in Insane Café 4, after Stripetail uses Apollo Lens to deflect an oncoming planet from Weyard, he is severely injured and when they recover him, they immediately pump him with massive amounts of painkillers and keep him unconscious while he heals.

    Western Animation 
  • Jackie Chan Adventures provides the Trope Namer. The Dark Hand is in possession of all 12 talismans, have split them up equally between the four of them, and are using them to wreak havoc. Finn notices that he has both the Dog and Horse talismans, which grant immortality and healing respectively. Considering this redundant, he trades the Horse to Ratso for the Pig (Eye Beams). This later comes back to bite him in the ass when he slams into a rock wall at 60 miles an hour, and he learns that while the Dog might prevent him from dying, it most certainly does not prevent him from being injured or feeling pain.
    Finn: Immortality hurts...
  • The Robot Chicken short "Jesus and the Argonauts" has Jesus leading half of the Argonauts on adventures and getting them killed while fighting monsters due to his pacifist ways. Whenever he gets killed, cue angelic choir and pillar of light, and he's back on his feet again. At the end, he gets clubbed into the ground by a cyclops, resurrects, and gets clubbed ad-infinitum.
    Jesus: Dad dammit!
  • Kenny of South Park, who dies over and over only to keep coming back and have nobody remember his deaths, which is explained in the Coon Trilogy, where he rants about it in his Mysterion persona:
    Kyle/Human Kite: What's the big deal? I mean, I think it'd be pretty cool not to be able to die.
    Kenny/Mysterion: "Pretty cool?!" Do you know what it feels like to be stabbed?! To be shot, decapitated, torn apart, burned, run over...
    Stan/Toolshed: Kenny, Kenny, calm down!
    Kenny/Mysterion: It's not "pretty cool", Kyle; it fucking hurts! And it won't go away, and nobody will believe me!
  • At the beginning of "Marceline the Vampire Queen", the episode which opens the Stakes arc of Adventure Time, we have the titular character stuck in the shade of a tree while her umbrella is just out of reach, under the sun. She tries to retrieve it, reasoning that one second of exposure to sunlight should mean nothing for someone who is eternal. She comes to a harrowing conclusion quite fast:
    Marceline: (staring at her fingertips flayed to the bone) One second of eternity hurts so much!
  • Rampage of Beast Wars made it clear that his seemingly immortal life has brought him nothing but pain. On top of the higher-than-usual-for-the-series battle damage, he's been subjected to horrific experimentation, had every method of execution that the Maximal High Council could think of attempted on him, and, to enforce obedience, his heart/soul analogue is regularly tormented in ways that would kill anyone else.