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Ominous Cube

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You can tell it's important because it's glowing and floating.

"The Cube is, at the same time, a symbol of simplicity and complexity."
Erno Rubik
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Sometimes the Plot Device has a unique shape, carefully designed by the work's artists to look like no other.

Other times it's a box.

A cube's inherently unnatural shape, combined with its general lack of visual cues, instantly makes it an Eerily Out-of-Place Object. The mere sight of it invites several questions. Is it mystical in nature or a piece of Sufficiently Advanced Technology? So volatile that it'll explode if you poke it, or benign enough to move around if you're careful? Something that can be used for good or a tool for evil? Why is it glowing? Does anyone else hear that humming noise?

In addition to the atmosphere, making plot devices cube-shaped can also bring to mind imagery of "Pandora's Box". Some writers go the extra mile and even name their artifacts after it, even if the work in question doesn't have a lot in common with the classical myth.

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Almost exclusively happens in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, as more contemporary genres have no reason for their Plot Devices to have a foreboding atmosphere since they're usually just mundane objects.

Sister Trope to Sinister Geometry, which evokes the same feeling of dread that this trope often does, but is significantly larger in scale, and can take any geometric shape, such as diamonds or pyramids.


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Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Cube: The eponymous Cube is a Big Labyrinthine Building made up of a bunch of smaller cube-shaped rooms. The entire building is one colossal Death Trap, which the protagonists are expected to navigate and escape.
  • Hellraiser: The Lament Configuration is a puzzle box that, when solved, opens a Hellgate that the Cenobites — demonic entities that derive pleasure from suffering — can pass through.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy depicts the Vogon constructor fleet as a net of identical, featureless black cubes encircling the Earth, hovering in the way bricks don't.
  • Justice League: The Mother Boxes are three alien cubes that, when united, are capable of terraforming a planet into a Death World like Steppenwolf's homeland.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Thor: Whoever holds The Casket of Ancient Winters instantly becomes An Ice Person. The Casket also has the ability to plunge a planet into a new ice age.
    • The Tesseract, one of the six Infinity Stones, generates essentially limitless amounts of energy and has been used to open portals to other worlds. It is also extremely volatile, the first of the aforementioned portals was completely accidental, which (seemingly) killed the Big Bad of Captain America: The First Avenger.
  • Mulholland Dr. features a mysterious blue cube that seems to be a portal between realities. At one point, Rita opens it with a matching key and is then sucked into it. The scene transitions to a different reality where characters take on different roles.
  • Transformers: The AllSpark, the source of all life on Cybertron, instantly transforms any mechanical device that it comes into direct contact with into a sapient entity with its own transforming abilities. The AllSpark itself is also a Size Shifter, starting off larger than Bumblebee, who is already enormous, then compacting itself to be small enough for a human to carry.

    Literature 
  • Animorphs: The Escafil Device is an Andalite invention that looks like a blue cube, and whoever touches it gains the power to morph into other lifeforms.
  • In The Goblin Reservation, the Time Museum has the "Artifact", a large, vaguely cubical thing whose origins nobody has ever been able to discern. It later turns out to be a container for the last known dragon in the universe.
  • In Neuromancer, Wintermute is represented by a glowing white cube in cyberspace, and being surrounded by black ICE means that nobody can hack into him without having their brain fried.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Toolbox is a tiny cube-shaped database that contains the entirety of SHIELD's files.
  • Chuck: The Intersect is a cube-shaped device capable of Neural Implanting. At first, it can only upload massive amounts of information into somebody's brain, but at the end of Season 2, it gets upgraded to upload abilities like martial arts and surgery.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Key to Time" Story Arc, the titular Key is comprised of a set of six puzzle pieces, which when assembled make a crystal cube.
    • The Pandorica, a giant, cube-shaped, "perfect prison" built specifically to contain the Doctor.
    • "The Power of Three" opens with millions of small cubes suddenly appearing on Earth one day. They remain dormant for a year, then they suddenly activate and cause one-third of humanity to go into cardiac arrest.
  • Kamen Rider Build: The Pandora Box is an ancient artifact retrieved from Mars that, once it was activated, raised gigantic walls that separated Japan into three sections. It also increased the aggression of everyone that was in the vicinity when it was first activated. If the box is fully opened, it has the power to completely annihilate all life on a planet.
  • Star Trek:
    • The Borg Cubes, they're the definition of The Dreaded Dreadnought when compared to the Federation's much smaller, lighter-colored, and more rounded vessels; they're color-coded with evil's Sickly Green Glow; the music often shifts to a battle theme or the Drone of Dread when they appear; and they tend to silently ignore anything they don't deem to be a threat or interesting enough to assimilate.
    • In the Original Series episode, "The Corbomite Maneuver", the Enterprise encounters a cube-shaped buoy that blocks their path and eventually begins emitting harmful radiation forcing them to destroy it. Of course, it turns out that it was a marker buoy belonging to The First Federation and destroying it signals a massive ship to come out and attack the Enterprise.
  • Supernatural: The Season 10 episode, "The Werther Project", featured the Werther Box, an enchanted vault that protected its contents by compelling anyone who attempted to open it without doing the proper ritual to commit suicide.
  • Warehouse 13: One of the artifacts featured in the Season 4 episode, "The Ones You Love", was a box made from human skin that featured a tattoo that could cause Spontaneous Human Combustion by transferring itself to different hosts. The box itself acted as a Power Nullifier, by preventing the tattoo from transferring to other hosts.

    Music 

    Myths & Religion 
  • Pandora's Box may be thought of as an example, but wasn't always. The term "box" is a mistranslation; the container described in the original Greek story was a large and presumably round storage jar.

    Tabletop Games 
  • There are many magical devices in Dungeons & Dragons that take the form of cubes, ranging from the cubic gate and Daern's instant fortress to the significantly less impressive cube of sweetness. The most ominous, however, is the Bringer of Doom — a small box with a button that, when pressed, conjures an entire army of low-rent fiends but also flashfries the user.
  • In Planescape Archeron is the Lawful Neutral plane with a tendency toward Lawful Evil. It is an infinite expanse of space with metallic cubes floating through it that range from the size of small islands to the size of continents. Armies of evil-aligned beings like hobgoblins and orcs live on these cubes as do the souls of anyone who ever died in combat for a cause they didn't believe in but they accepted money to fight in, and when two cubes come together, their inhabitant swarm out to attack each other.

    Toys 
  • BIONICLE:
    • The Nuva Cube functioned as the lock on the Bahrag's prison. By placing the Toa Nuva's six unique Nuva Symbols into the Cube, the cage would be opened. It is also, in some way, connected to the Toa Nuva's elemental powers, as they lost them when the Nuva Symbols were stolen.
    • Pictured is the power source for the prototype Great Spirit Robot, a smooth silver cube with strange markings on each side. It was extremely unstable and caused the original robot to explode violently, throwing its pieces across the planet. Energized Protodermis was capable of stabilizing it, making it safe to use.

    Video Games 
  • Antichamber: Throughout the game, a black, floating cube known as "The Black Ghost" can be seen just out of reach of the player. In the final area, "The Escape", the player catches up with it, captures it in the Matter Gun, and transports it to a secluded area. After releasing it, the Black Ghost encloses the area in a black dome and creates the game's logo with some debris that was scattered around the area, which then begins sucking the world into it like a giant vacuum. Roll credits. Interpretations of what the Black Ghost represents vary wildly.
  • Astral Chain: To further emphasize the otherworldly-ness of the Astral Plane, nearly its entire geography is made up of red and black cubes. Many things that come from it subtly incorporate cubes in their designs as well; Chimeras and Aberrations disintegrate into cube-like pixels when killed, and Legions warp the ground below them into cube-like deformations when released.
  • The Large Cube from Beyond Oasis is what holds Agito's power in place.
  • Bomberman 64: The Omni Cube, which is used by the game's villain Altair to drain the energy from the planets he seeks to conquer.
  • Cube Colossus: The protagonists are exploring a giant, clearly artificial cube floating in space with mysterious defenses that they already lost comrades in.
  • Cube Escape: A series of puzzle games revolving around some very ominous and mystical cubes, which seemingly allow the user to change the past and future.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In Morrowind, the very first mission of the main quest sends you to a Dwemer ruin to recover a Dwemer Puzzle Box in order to appease an informant. The roughly fist-sized bronze cube turns out to be a key which allows you to go deeper into the ruin where better treasure and tougher enemies await.
    • Skyrim:
      • Skyrim reveals that the Dwemer are quite into their ominous cubes. One type, called Dwemer Lexicons, appear as glowing Magitek cubes and are used to store vast amounts of information. The now-extinct Dwemer even devised a means to (relatively safely) divine an Elder Scroll, bypassing the usual side effects on mortal readers such as blindness and insanity, using a machine to store the information on a Lexicon. The main quest mission "Elder Knowledge" and the side quest "Unfathomable Depths" both feature Lexicons. In the latter, retrieving the Lexicon grants you the passive ability "Ancient Knowledge" which increases your skill while wearing Dwarven Armor and causes your Blacksmithing skill to increase faster.
      • Another Dwemer cube is featured in the Daedric side quest "Discerning the Transmundane", which sees you attempting to open a giant, mysterious, cubic Dwemer lockbox.
  • In Fate/Grand Order, the fourth Lostbelt has a mysterious black cube that has persisted through all the cycles. Despite its unusual nature, Arjuna Alter thinks nothing of it, and Pepe decides to keep it around against the advice of Wodime to see what it does. It turns out, it's Jinako/Ganesha and Lakshmibai sent back in time by Ashwatthama in order to help foil Arjuna Alter's rampage.
  • Fez:
    • A giant, floating, ambiguously sentient yellow cube that speaks in a Starfish Language grants the player character, Gomez, a fez which lets him perceive the third dimension. Something causes this cube to shatter into multiple, smaller cubes,note  which causes reality to start falling apart. The game centers around reassembling it.
    • Gomez is also accompanied by a sentient Tesseract named Dot, who acts the game's Exposition Fairy.
  • While almost everything in Minecraft is made out of cubes, the End Crystals, which explode and can heal the game's final boss, manage to look ominous with their otherworldly appearance and rotating animation.
  • Psychonauts: Sasha Nein's mindscape is a giant floating cube, representing his tightly-wrapped, stoic personality. Finding out some of the things he's keeping bottled up in there can be rather disturbing.
  • The Secret World features the Gaia Engines, a series of giant cube-shaped machines scattered across the world. Their main function is to keep the Dreamers asleep and purge the Filth before it builds to dangerous levels, though many have sought them out for the limitless energy supply they offer - often with disastrous results, as The Park illustrates. If all else fails and an apocalypse occurs, the Engines work in unison, harnessing the Dreamers' reality-warping powers to restore the world to factory settings.
  • Skies of Arcadia: The Yellow Moon Crystal, which was imbued with the power of lightning. It was the means of controlling the yellow Gigas, Yeligar. It was also one of the six keys to raising the lost continent of Soltis, and awakening the Physical God, Zelos.
  • Parodied in South Park: The Fractured but Whole with "The Cube of Ultimate Destruction", which is just a Rubik's Cube. The Coon remarks it has the power to destroy the Milky Way galaxy. He isn't kidding.
  • Spellbreaker: Featureless white cubes serve as the game's "treasures" and, with the aid of a spell, make up its transportation system. The cubes are actually symbolic representations of the basic building blocks of reality, which the shadowy figure is tricking you into collecting.
  • Street Fighter X Tekken: "Pandora" is the name given to the mysterious cube that fell to Earth that the game centers around. It is capable of granting its wielder's wishes, as well as amplifying the strength of those around it well beyond natural levels.
  • Super Mario Odyssey: The Power Moons that Mario and Cappy collect throughout the game are revealed to come from cube-shaped moon rocks that fall to the Earth and explode, scattering the Power Moons across the region.
  • Ultima: The three Generators in Ultima VII: The Black Gate take the form of a pyramid, sphere, and cube. The Prisms, the games' Artifacts of Doom, are housed within. The most powerful of the three is the Cube, which compels Fellowship members to be completely truthful when brandished at them.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: The 3rd game has the Arca of Recluse which uses Kevin's memories to recreate places in Phantasma, allows teleportation across explored places and activates monuments, among other things.

    Webcomics 
  • Inverted in Homestuck, where weird green cubes called Perfectly Generic Objects act as the "default item" in the comic's world. As the name suggests, they are generic and do not do anything. They are the result of using alchemy without "carving" a certain tool first and they're the first, and for a while only, thing Roxy makes with her power to steal from nothingness.
  • S.S.D.D brought in a creepy glowing cube as a MacGuffin in 2012. It then passed through multiple hands who didn't know what it was, just that a certain Voice with an Internet Connection wanted it, then GCHQ speculated it was buckminsterfullerene and put it in storage where it unfolded into a small robot and plugged itself into a network jack.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • ReBoot: Game Cubes (not those ones) sectioned off large portions of the system-cities of The Net, which would either be left intact or destroyed, depending on whether the User lost or won.
  • The Eliacube in Wakfu is a piece of ancient technology left behind by Precursors, with sinister applications and appearances and that may or may not be sentient and speaking to those who wield it. It vastly powers up its user's magical abilities at cost of Life Energy - whether from the user or somewhere else is of no concern to it. It drove its most notable wielder, Nox, completely insane.
  • The Black Cube of Darkness from Wander over Yonder parodies this trope. While introduced as a sentient, terrifying supervillain capable of sucking souls, he is later shown to be rather lackluster at anything that doesn't involve villainy. After his second appearance, he ends up giving up on villainy and tries his hand at a number of odd jobs. However, everyone (besides Wander) still fears him.

    Real Life 
  • The Sinister Geometry aspect is actually subverted in that salt, sodium chloride, forms cubic crystals, and is both extremely common and useful.
  • The mineral pyrite frequently forms nearly perfect cubic crystals: an example.


 
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Moon Rock

A Moon Rock awakens and scatters more Power Moons across the Cap Kingdom

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