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Mortality Phobia

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Fear of Death by greenleafstudio

Hudson: Growing old terrifies you, doesn't it?
Xanatos: [somewhat rattled] Nothing terrifies me. Because nothing is beyond my ability to change.

Death comes to all humans, and while most of us don't especially like it, and want to postpone it as much as possible, some people will try to escape that fate at all costs. For them, there is no Fate Worse than Death.

While not wanting to die is a great motivator to spring into action in the short term, some people take that to the extreme, plotting and scheming and searching for ways to hold it off indefinitely, even when the prospect of having to meet the reaper seems reasonably far off. Especially when Your Days Are Numbered. Performing bizarre rituals, which are sometimes nothing more than personal superstitions, extreme paranoia and carefulness, disregard for the lives of others in favor of their own, and a willingness to buy into fantasy or myths that promise to extend their life are all side-effects of having such a phobia. This is often the motivation for an Immortality Seeker.

Why a character may have a Mortality Phobia is strangely not commonly gone into, though when it is, it often has to do with a fear of having to pay for all the bad deeds they've done in the afterlife, or a fear that there isn't one at all. Such characters are generally secular, wealthy, and powerful, so presumably they can't stand the possibility of losing all that and starting over, either.

Another form of this trope is when a character suddenly faces a mortal threat and completely buckles in fear.

A Hollywood Atheist might be accused of this (or play it straight if they're a villain) on the basis that they don't believe in life after death (in reality, atheists report less fear of death on average, though ironically just thinking about them can inspire this in others).

Contrast Mono no Aware, Who Wants to Live Forever?, Not Afraid to Die, Death Seeker, and We All Die Someday. For fear of someone else's death, you'd like to see Protectorate and all of their protectors.

See also Immortals Fear Death. Doesn't actually have anything to do with Don't Fear the Reaper.

Truth in Television - Thanatophobia, the fear of death, is one of the most common phobias in the world. That being said, No Real Life Examples, Please!


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Akame ga Kill!: This is the primary motivation of Dorothea, Wild Hunt's Evil Genius. Dorothea is absolutely terrified at the prospect of dying, which is why she is so adamant on trying to find a way to extend her lifespan, all the while draining people of their blood with her Imperial Arm, Absordex, to maintain her childlike visage. When the time comes for her to pay for her crimes and Leone is about to crush her to death with a massive boulder, Dorothea suffers a very undignified Villainous Breakdown where she begs for her life, trying to say that all she wants is to stay young and beautiful forever. A disgusted Leone retorts that there were a lot of people whom Dorothea killed who probably wanted to live, too. Predictably, Dorothea's Inelegant Blubbering and attempts to bargain for her life by sharing what she knows about prolonging the human lifespan are cut off when Leone squashes her flat without a care.
  • Cross Ange: There are two things Chris fears the most, abandonment and especially death. So much so that she is paralyzed with fear when in danger of being killed, and being convinced by Embryo that her friends left her for dead after she had been shot in the head from the Arzenal massacre and him telling her she would never be abandoned by him were enough to cause a Face–Heel Turn.
  • Durarara!!: Izaya's primary goal is to avoid the Cessation of Existence he believes will occur beyond death, and has driven him to form an extremely convoluted plan in attempt to prevent it: hypothesizing that Dullahan are actually Valkyries left dormant on Earth, he decides to start a massive gang war in the hopes of creating a conflict large enough to wake up resident Dullahan Celty and hitch a ride with her to whatever afterlife she returns to. He flatly states that he doesn't care whether or not it's a hellish place filled with nothing but pain, just as long as it's not nothing. Ironically, since Durarara and Baccano! share a 'verse, there is a much simpler and more reliable (also arguably less insane) means for attaining Immortality that he just doesn't know about; which makes the brief appearance of Isaac and Miria, who are members of the Dollars no less, much more hilarious.
  • Morganna in .hack//SIGN is a Rogue A.I. who became aware of her programming to self-terminate once The World's true god Aura was born. She goes to great lengths to make sure that she never is, and it takes the combined efforts of Tsukasa, Subaru, and all the others to stop her.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), Dante's wish to never die is what runs the military agenda and what makes the homunculi do what they do.
  • A patient, Mami, in Junji Ito's story "The Long Dream" (from his first anthology) is terrified of death, and wakes up screaming almost every night. This isn't helped when Mukoda, a patient having abnormally long dreams, starts to transform as the dreams become longer, confuses his dreams and reality and goes to Mami's room, as they were married in a dream of his. She mistakes him for Death coming to take her soul until the doctors calm her down. Ultimately, Mukoda dies in his dream and crumbles apart, leaving only a strange crystalline substance behind where his brain was. The doctors discuss how Mami's condition has improved, but she's started having long dreams as well, as the crystals were administered to her. Now, she can live in an apparent infinity due to the dreams, but it's still quite disturbing.
  • Berserk: Implied with Wyald, the monstrous Apostle who led the Black Dog Knights. It's revealed after he's killed for good that his original human form was that of a sickly old man, and the only way to become an Apostle is to reach the Despair Event Horizon while in possession of a behelit, and then sacrifice what is most dear to you in return for demonic power.
  • EDENS ZERO: This is the motivation of Drakken Joe, one of the most powerful and evil men in the Sakura Cosmos who's lived for over 200 years. He was born on a planet where the population was bioengineered to die by the time they were only 15 years old due to being human guinea pigs, and Drakken was terrified of dying so young without the chance to grow up, travel the stars, and make friends like a normal person would. He learned alchemy because he realized he could use it to absorb life force from others to support his own, but over time he forgot about his idealistic childhood dreams and became obsessed with just living forever and gaining wealth and influence to support his immortality.
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba: Muzan Kibutsuji is defined by his fear of death, ever since he was ill and almost thought of as stillborn. All his villainy, selfishness, cruelty, and desire to achieve Complete Immortality is motivated by his desire to never face his death, no matter what low he needs to stoop to.
  • Fairy Tail the Movie: Phoenix Priestess: When Dyst was a little boy, he tried to have his pet weasel resurrected, only to be told there no magic that can revive the dead. Upon hearing this, Dyst became terrified of dying and vowed that he would find a way to live forever. As an adult, his quest has twisted him into a vile individual, willing to do anything or hurt anyone in the name of gaining immortality.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 
  • In Seven Soldiers: Alix Harrower got her powers from an accident brought on by her husband's extreme obsession with his own mortality. Unable to cope with the thought of going grey or developing wrinkles, Lance Harrower tried to infuse his skin with a metal coating, but instead suffocated when the coating completely enveloped him. Alix herself became coated in the stuff after he grabbed her for help. Ironically, Lance ended up dying.
  • This is a constant fear and driving motivator for many in the pantheon in The Wicked + The Divine. Given all of the gods are young people and most of them are teenagers who are unlikely to live to see their twenties, it's a pretty reasonable feeling. Minerva is especially bitter, seeing as how she won't live to see fourteen, and Baphomet is scared enough to resort to drastic measures to live longer.
  • The Punisher (who is very familiar with this trope, or rather seeing it in others) when mob boss Nicky Cavella is holding a schoolboy hostage.
    Hurt the boy and you die bad, you know that. But there's a part of you that still thinks if you let him go, you've got a chance. And that part of you just won't shut up.
Cavella lets the kid go. Frank takes Cavella out in the wilderness and shoots him in the gut, leaving him to die of blood poisoning over several days.
  • Fantastic Four: Annihilus is a cosmic being — incredibly powerful, immeasurably old — and yet the very thought that he isn't immortal and that there is someone out there in the universe capable of killing him utterly terrifies him. This is a good thing for the universe at large, as he mostly hides in the Negative Zone for his own safety, rather than using his cosmic powers to conquer the universe. When he decides to get more proactive about his fear… bad things happen.
  • Immortal Hulk: Dr. Frye is an extreme, borderline-delusional Flat-Earth Atheist who can't make himself believe in any sort of afterlife despite the afterlife's very objective existence in this universe. As a result of this delusion, he develops a paralyzing fear of dying, equating it with Cessation of Existence, and becomes desperate to discover the secret to immortality. So desperate he's willing to do anything to achieve it. Even human experimentation on his own son.

    Fan Works 
  • This is the foundation of Fleur Dis Lee's characterization in Anchor Foal. Every aspect of her life is built around a desperate fear of aging, to the point where just seeing a pony with a time-themed cutie mark is enough to make her hate that pony with a deep and abiding hatred.
  • Codex Equus:
    • War Rock would suffer from this later in life. He was unable to accept the fact that he was growing older, and tried compensating for it by wearing wigs to cover up his balding mane and letting his ego turn into full-blown narcissism. The last straw was learning that Blue Suede Heartstrings managed to Ascend to godhood, making War Rock realize that he was going to be outlived by his rival in both life and legacy. War Rock's desire for eternal life made him commit horrible crimes in order to get it, such as making a Deal with the Devil, joining the Sinful Seven (and, by extension, Overmare), and turning himself into a vampire. In the end, his quest for immortality ended up killing him when Ace and Melody exploited his weakness to sunlight in their final battle to defeat him for good, and he would be doomed to eternal damnation at the hooves of Malus Manes and his part of the Trimortidae. War Rock's entry notes that had he simply swallowed his pride and accepted his mortality, he would've become an Alicorn like Blue did and gained the immortality he always wanted.
    • Like War Rock above, Prince Healing Song suffered from one. Despite his good life, successes, and plans, Healing Song initially feared dying because it meant he wouldn't be able to do everything he wanted to do, and he worried about how people might see him after death. After trying to keep his fears a secret, he eventually caved and confessed his fears to his mentor, Blue Suede Heartstrings. This led to Blue introducing Healing Song to his older twin brother, Bossa Nova Heartstrings, who taught Healing Song that Death is really nothing to be afraid about, and what truly mattered is how he lived his life, not how long he lived. It's noted that this saved Healing Song from becoming like War Rock, since he was humble and trusting enough to seek help from his friends rather than selfishly becoming an Immortality Seeker. Coincidentally, Healing Song's acceptance of his mortality led to a rather unexpected Karmic Jackpot where he Ascended to godhood on his deathbed for his good deeds, instead of dying from cancer as he expected to.
  • In the Touhou Project fic Suikakasen, Yoshika wants to become a hermit (and thus gain immortality) because she is terrified of dying. It's her making this fear clear that triggers Kasen's (who was about to kill Yoshika right before she revealed her phobia) Heel Realization. Yoshika's given pretty good reason to be fearing death too considering how her Soap Opera Disease means that she's going to die soon. By the end of the story however, she seems to have gotten over her phobia and dies smiling.
  • Tales of the Undiscovered Swords: This is the reason Konotegashiwa is a Straw Vegetarian – he experienced firsthand the terrifying power of destruction by being burned as an inanimate sword and wants to reduce destruction by not killing things.
  • In the MCU SI fic A Twelve-Step Program to Omnipotence, this is the defining trait of the main character. He knows that his odds of surviving various superhero battles, alien invasions and cosmic snaps isn't very high and he is willing to do anything and everything to make sure that he'll end up more powerful than anything that could ever hope to threaten his existence.
  • Encrypt within the Dark, to Save the Clockwork of a Heart: Yusaku realizes that Queen's actions comes from being afraid to die, stemming from watching her grandmother's dying reaction. It was this fear that made her do desperate things to survive, like uploading her mind in the network and attempting to merge herself into Yusaku's mind.
  • The Flash Sentry Chronicles: In the Season 7 chapter "A Picture is Worth a Thousand Webs", this serves as the main motivation for the antagonist of the chapter, Camera Trap. He was not born as a real pony, he was created by his master, a Giant Spider-like creature that lives in another dimension, and uses Camera Trap to lure victims to their doom. Camera Trap's master keeps him alive for his services, and Camera Trap even says he has lived long enough to live a full life. Despite his guilt over lying to others and leading them to their deaths, he continues to do so because if he should refuse his master, or should his master die, then he will die as well, and he fears that because he was created instead of being born, there will be no afterlife waiting for him. Despite his fears though, Shining Soul helps convince him to save everyone he has put in danger and help destroy his former master for good, despite knowing what this will mean for him.
  • With This Ring: While not a defining part of his character, this is definetly something that Orange Lantern dealt with - it's just that as a Self-Insert from the real world, there was little he could do about it in his original life, other than distract himself with work or hobbies, since death is inevitable. Upon finding himself in the Young Justice universe, where afterlives and souls are real, he eventually found out that he didn't naturally have a soul, since they're based on magic, which does not exist in the "real world". While gaining one becomes a side project, it's not one of his main goals, but he does eventually get one... at which point he now has to figure out exactly what this means, and what his eventual afterlife will be, since DC has several, and the rules are pretty confusing. By the 2020's in real time, he has died and been resurrected three times.

    Films — Animation 
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: The titular character develops this after his brush with the mysterious Wolf, who manages to wound him while menacingly telling him that "no one is able to escape [death]". This is after a doctor told him that he has lost eight of his nine lives, so if he dies, he will die permanently. The entire reason he decides to embark on the journey to find the Wishing Star is so he may be able to regain his lost lives. It is later revealed that the Wolf is actually The Grim Reaper, who wants to punish Puss for taking his nine lives for granted. Puss eventually realizes that We All Die Someday, and the right thing to do is to cherish things that we can experience in the remaining time we have. This gains the Wolf's respect, and he decides to leave Puss until their inevitable "reunion" in the future.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • The servant in "Appointment in Samarra" who, seeing Death, borrows a horse from his master and flees to Samarra in order to escape. The master confronts Death, asking why Death scared his servant. Death replies that he didn't mean to scare the servant, he was just startled to see the servant there, since they had an appointment in Samarra that evening.

  • In Dandelion Wine Doug has to deal with this after a few Green Town residents die over the summer, and he comes to the realization that he will eventually have to die too.
  • Older Than Dirt: The Epic of Gilgamesh is possibly the oldest example of this trope. It chronicles the life of Gilgamesh as a seeks a way to avert death following an act that angered the Sumerian gods. The title character goes to great lengths to gain immortality, including trying to stay awake for seven days, and swimming to the bottom of the ocean to get a magical weed. His quest for immortality ultimately ends in him having to accept that death cannot be subverted.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, this was a common trait of Men and caused by Morgoth and his marring of Arda: he poisoned the matter of Arda with his essence, making Men to fear their mortality and causing Elves to fade. Sadly, this was also the main reason of the envy of the Númenoreans towards the Elves (who were immortal) and the eventual downfall of Númenor.
  • Harry Potter. Lord Voldemort split his soul into seven pieces, and hid them in separate soul jars to ensure that he would never die. His obsession with avoiding death is noted to be one of his fatal flaws. Word of God even says a Boggart (a creature that assumes the form of a person's worst fear) would assume the form of his own corpse in his presence.
  • Methuselah's Children:
    • Mary Sperling, one of the oldest members of the Long-Lived Howard family, allows herself to be assimilated into an alien Hive Mind because she's afraid of dying.
    • This is what led to the Howard family fleeing into space. After their existence and longevity are revealed to the world, humanity goes absolutely insane with jealousy and rage, as the only thing that makes people semi-accepting of death is that there is seemingly no way to avoid it, no matter how rich or powerful you are. The reveal that this one family has seemingly cheated death, or at the very least delayed it far longer than anyone else is too much to take, and no one is willing to listen to the fact that their lifespan is the result of generations worth of selective breeding. The President himself even acknowledges that the only reason he hasn't had the characters carved up to find their secret is because he believes them, and contemplates having them all executed just so there'd be nothing to fight over, but ends up just having them exile themselves into space, and even joins them. Ironically, decades later it turns out that after the Howards left, humanity discovered an alternate form of immortality.
  • Discworld: Magic users can see Death and know when their time is up. However, where witches tend to Face Death with Dignity (due to serving as midwives and burial attendants, they see quite a lot of death), wizards usually try to cheat their way out (in one's case, moving his spirit into a staff, from which he orders his son around, while another gets into a box with all the sigils and wards he can think of, only to hear "Cramped in here, isn't it?". (Spoken by Death himself, since the wizard forgot to include air holes.)
  • This is Gerridon's Fatal Flaw in the Chronicles of the Kencyrath, which led him to bargain with Perimal Darkling and sell out his own people in the pursuit of immortality. This is explicitly pointed out in the in-universe saga that recalls his fall, which is repeated often enough to be Arc Words: "Gerridon Highlord, Master of Knorth, a proud man was he. The three peoples - Highborn, Kendar, and Arrin-Ken - he held in hand, by right of birth and might [...] but he feared death..." Notably, this makes him very unusual for a Kencyr, who are a Martyrdom Culture who don't consider fear of death to be a valid motivation for anything, and serves only to reinforce his evil and selfishness to a Kencyr audience.
  • In The Little Mermaid, mermaids live much longer lives than humans however they don't have mortal souls like humans. Thus when they die, they die. The titular little mermaid doesn't like this and attempts to receive a soul by marrying a human. In the original ending, she fails. In the revised one, they went for a Bittersweet Ending instead. She still dies but she can earn a mortal soul if she does enough good deads while in spirit form.
  • It's implied that Gothel fears death in Mother Knows Best: A Tale of the Old Witch. She doesn't want to deal with something as "undiginified" as death and fears turning to dust much like her mother. Gothel just wants to live forever with her deceased triplet sisters, so she tries in vain to figure out how to revive them. In the end, Gothel does have the particularly painful death of turning into dust, just like Manea did centuries prior.
  • Pufftail from Stray is in denial that death comes to everyone eventually. When told this by a female cat named Tammy, Pufftail refuses to believe that death is unavoidable. Even as a senior, he believes that death can be outrun if you're lucky enough.
  • Pet Sematary: Rachel Creed, the main characters wife, can't stand any sort of discussion of death, even the concept of pets dying, due to childhood trauma; her older sister Zelda suffered from spinal meningitis, and died an agonizing death when Rachel was alone at home with her. A combination of Survivor's Guilt and a crippling fear of her own mortality has haunted her ever since.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Marie Laveau in American Horror Story: Coven. Which is why she made a deal with Papa Legba that requires her to sacrifice an infant every year in exchange for immortality.
  • In Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Keith finds a single gray hair and realizes that he's going to eventually die (he's had such a fortunate life that the idea had never occurred to him), causing him to have a bit of a breakdown.
  • The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon plans to download his consciousness into a computer in order to live forever. When he gets concerned that the technology won't be available in his lifetime, he constructs a robot with a webcam and monitor so he can interact with others virtually while remaining sealed in his room away from anything that might harm him.
  • In Community Jeff panics that he is going to die after learning he has high cholesterol.
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid lead villain Kuroto Dan is obsessed with finding the cure for death, and a virus that can convert living beings into video game characters and the other way around is his ticket to doing it. Kuroto fears death so much that he used the virus to make himself an immortal zombie, then created a backup system to resurrect him if someone found a way to kill him, then created a backup system for if someone destroyed the first backup system. Somewhat unusually, he actually intends to share the cure for death once he has it, but his way of doing it is to conscript thousands of people into being his test subjects.
  • Inverted on Northern Exposure. Chris's father and grandfather both died by the age of 40, so he figures that he will too - so he tends to do risky things, like take out loans and not pay them off. But then Joel diagnoses him with high blood pressure and gives him medication, stating that his father & grandfather probably had it too. Now that Chris is given a chance at a long life, he starts toning down his risky behavior.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In "The Obsolete Man", a totalitarian government has outlawed religion, among many other things, and a Christian named Wordsworth is deemed "obsolete" and sentenced to death. The Chancellor who convicted him turns out to have this when Wordsworth tricks him into sharing his public execution, and refuses to let him out until he breaks down and begs "in the name of God". The Chancellor is released just before he's killed, but has thus proven himself obsolete, and will now share Wordsworth's fate anyway.
    • In "Nothing in the Dark", a woman sees Death and becomes so frightened of dying that she shuts herself up in her apartment and remains there into her old age, refusing to let anyone else inside.
  • Chris in Parks and Recreation is such a health nut that finding any indication that he's aging (or even just not the peak of human perfection) is enough to send him into a downward spiral. Justified as he was born with a rare blood disease and the doctors said he wouldn't last a month, and his continued survival has made him determined to prove he can survive anything. It's revealed he has other issues going on as well, and eventually, he gets over it with professional help.
  • Supernatural: A Mad Scientist/alchemist in the Season 3 episode "Time Is on My Side" went to length to take others' organs to prolong his own life. Though a subversion in that it was more to be comfortable than immortal, but Sam and Dean provide him a Fate Worse than Death to truly punish him.
  • The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance: The Skeksis fear dying and their primary motivation is to find immortality, if not any way to prolong their lives, even just a little bit longer, in direct contrast to the Gelflings, who see death as natural, with one Gelfling tribe's religion making them almost completely fearless of death. It's also directly stated that the Gelfling and other native species of Thra rejoin the planet's life energy in death as part of its natural cycle, but the Skeksis, due to not being native to Thra, do not join its energy when they perish, making it unknown what happens to them when they die. The Skeksis Emperor, skekSo, terrified by his painful nightmares, not only fears that there is nothing waiting for them when they die, but is especially frightened by the possibility that, if there is an Afterlife for the Skeksis, then something worse than the torments they suffer in life might be in store for them there.
  • The Flash (2014):
    • The Season 4 Big Bad, Clifford DeVoe, learns that he is doomed to die of an ALS-like condition due to his brainpower proving too taxing on his body. His desperation to live is such that he resorts to stealing the bodies of other metahumans. He becomes absolutely livid when it's revealed that even this is a temporary fix, given that each new body is decaying even faster than his old one.
    • Ramsey Rosso, the Arc Villain of the first half of Season 6, discovers that he has a genetic trait that predisposes him to the same cancer that killed his mother, and becomes obsessed with finding a cure for it. To this end, he experiments on himself with dark matter, accidentally giving himself the ability to absorb blood from other people and turn them into his mind controlled zombies. He sees nothing wrong with this if it keeps him alive, and becomes determined to infect as many people as possible.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): In the episode "White Light Fever", the 102-year-old businessman Harlan Hawkes is permanently living on a reserved floor of a major hospital and has contracted a personal doctor to carry out research to keep him alive at all costs. This is explained by a severe Freudian Excuse — Hawkes witnessed his parents being murdered in front of him during a war when he was a kid and spending days hiding underneath their corpses to survive. The dilemma starts when he desires another heart transplant while an 18-year-old girl also needs it, while The Grim Reaper himself starts hunting for Hawkes in the form of electricity. In the end, both die, and the final scene shows that Hawkes has damned himself with his selfishness.

  • Gandy Dancer of The Adventure Zone: Dust is terrified of death due to losing her parents at a young age. Graveyards make her extremely uncomfortable and being near a psychopomp is enough to make her physically ill.
  • The Magnus Archives: The End is the Fear Entity associated with death, and its manifestations follow this pattern.
    • The soldier in the folk story at the beginning of "Cheating Death" had a dread of death that went beyond ordinary fear, which is why he took care to position himself at the rear during battles, and why he desperately challenged Death to a game. It turns out it wasn't just a folk story..
    • Oliver Blake starts off seeing tendrils around people who are soon to die in his dreams. As it progresses, he starts seeing them when awake, and finds he can't stop the deaths they predict.
    • The episode "The Cost of Living" features a woman who has serial near-death experiences, which she recovers from by stealing the life of another. Every time, the time between experiences gets shorter and shorter, and the character attempts to justify it by saying she's done enough good to balance it out.
    • The titular book of the episode "Book Of The Dead" describes the cruel, arbitrary death of the owner. The deaths can be averted, but they'll just be replaced by a sooner, just as terrible, death.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons
    • Liches are undead who were high-level spellcasters in life. Many of them are stated to have achieved lichdom in order to avoid dying of old age.
    • Module OA7 Test of the Samurai. The Big Bad Za-Jikku is so determined to avoid death that he plans to turn the entire planet's atmosphere into a lethal gas that only he can breathe and which will grant him immortality. The fact that this will kill off all other creatures on the planet does not concern him.
  • In Planescape this is the defining feature of prolongers, formerly human (usually) creatures who are so terrified of death, they have used a foul ritual to become abominations who can drain the life force of others to survive. Cowards to the core, they aren't even vaguely human now, fear of death turning them into amoral predators.
  • In Mage: The Ascension, one of the major villains is a death-obsessed euthanatos. In one of the finale scenarios he becomes the Big Bad, attempting to stop a mass ascension event, even at the risk of breaking reality, just to keep himself alive.
  • Settra the Imperishable in Warhammer founded the Mortuary Cult because he was too proud to accept his own mortality... and thus laid the foundations for the eventual creation of The Undead in the setting (the ranks of which he would join millennia later as a Tomb King):
    • Nagash would build on the knowledge of the Mortuary Cult, coupled with Dark Elf magic, to invent necromancy with which he would eventually doom all of Nehekhara,
    • And Neferata would build on Nagash's research, becoming the first vampire, in her own quest for immortality.

    Video Games 
  • In the expanded plot of Team Fortress 2, this is the primary motivation of Bluetarch; initially he had a life-extension machine built because he simply wanted to outlive his brother Redmond (who had his own built), however he still spends brief amounts of time dead and is now absolutely terrified of The Nothing After Death.
    Every day I'm dead a little longer, Mister Conagher. I have seen the other side. There is nothing there.
  • In Final Fantasy III, the villain Xande's motivation is this. He wants to freeze the world into eternal darkness and stop time in order to prevent his death and mortality. This is because, in his Back Story, he was a pupil of the Magus Noah. His other two pupils were given the gift of great magical power, but Xande was instead given the "gift" of mortality. This was an honest gesture, but it caused him to go over the edge.
  • Marathon. The Rogue A.I. Durandal becomes obsessed with its own mortality, and searches the universe to try to find a way to escape its inevitable destruction known as the Big Crunch.
  • In Dwarf Fortress, this can be one of the motivations for an NPC to begin learning necromancy.
  • Meryl from Harvest Moon: Magical Melody has constant worries about death. Meryl is a little girl which makes her dialogue more concerning. It's never specified what happened to her but she has a Dark and Troubled Past.
  • In Assassin's Creed, the Templar Sibrand believes that there is nothing waiting for him after death, and the thought of this terrifies him so deeply that when he learns that the Assassins are coming for him, he begins executing random priests out of sheer blind paranoia because they wear vaguely similar robes to those of the Assassins.
  • In Warriors Orochi 4, this is the motivation of Odin, who desperately sought to avert his fated death in Ragnarok, succeeded, and now plans to eradicate all other living beings so that nothing else can ever pose a threat to him again.
  • Sylvanas Windrunner in World of Warcraft was driven by Revenge against Arthas the Lich King for killing her, raising her as an undead slave, and using her to help destroy her home city. After the Lich King's defeat, Sylvanas committed suicide to reenter the beautiful afterlife she saw for herself just before Arthas brought her back as a banshee. But the sins she committed in her quest for revenge instead damned her soul to eternal torment in the Maw. A bargain was struck that returned Sylvanas to her undead existence. She is terrified of what awaits her after her final death and now does everything in her power to propagate the undead Forsaken and to ensure her own eternal life.

    Web Comics 
  • Dominic Deegan: The backstory of the Infernomancer is that he was a nobody who was so scared of death, he made a deal with Karnak for immortality. When Quilt kills him in the final story, he freaks out and screams in horror.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: The Demiurge Mottom has a mortality phobia. While she is a millennia old immortal, she is unable to shake her fear of one day dying and having it all taken away from her. Her method of immortality is a De Aging fruit whose effects are temporary, and are reversed the worse Mottom fears death. It can also only be harvested from the tree that sprouted from her husband's corpse, which means she suffers a breakdown when Allison destroys it and dooms her to an inevitable death by old age.
  • The Order of the Stick: So far, one of the few things that can make Xykon seriously lose his cool is his phylactery being destroyed, at least while he's in a position where his body might also be destroyed. As he says once, he'll do anything to "avoid the Big Fire Below."
  • Unsounded: The ghosts that possess Ana gain her acceptance of their residence by telling and convincing her that "It's not safe to die".

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • David Xanatos, the ridiculously rich and powerful Magnificent Bastard of Gargoyles embarks on all sorts of schemes to live forever, so that he and his wife Fox can enjoy being rich and powerful forever.
    Xanatos: The Cauldron of Life. The legend says whoever bathes in it will live as long as the mountain stones.
    Hudson: Ah, you wish to be... immortal.
    Xanatos: Of course. What good are all the riches on Earth, if Fox and I can't enjoy them forever?
  • Family Guy:
    • After getting hit by Peter's car as he's backing out of the driveway, and Lois inconsiderately reminds the family just how old he is, Brian takes to drinking his worries away because he knows that everyone can just randomly die at any moment. The combined efforts of Stewie and Frank Sinatra Jr. help him overcome his worries once and for all.
    • "Mom's the Word" has Stewie frightened by the prospect of him dying someday, and when Brian tells him he believes that there's nothing in the afterlife (being an atheist and all), he tries to kill himself. After several failed attempts at suicide, Brian convinces him to make his life worthwhile and fulfill his dreams, and Stewie decides to try stand-up comedy, but his act bombs and Brian tells him to kill himself.
  • In Rudolph's Shiny New Year, the Big Bad, Aeon, who is a creature that lives for exactly one eon, is nearing the end of his lifespan within a matter of days, so he kidnaps Baby New Year in order to stop time.
  • In one episode of Jem, The Stingers exploit this fear in an older woman in order to scam her.