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The Darkness Before Death

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It's gettin' dark, too dark to see
I feel I'm knockin' on heaven's door
Bob Dylan, "Knockin' On Heaven's Door"

When someone is dying, one of the first senses to shut down is the sight, either fading to black or white.

In order to qualify for the trope, the cause of the blindness must be because the person is in the process of dying. Deaths caused as a side-effect of being blinded or being physically blinded by, say, having your eyes cut/stabbed out don't qualify. Also, the eyes shutting down as a result of multiple organ failures throughout the body count if said organ failure is the cause of death.

This is Truth in Television, albeit most examples exaggerate the trope for drama. If the character's death is Played for Laughs (intentionally or not), this may lead to Long-Lasting Last Words about being in the dark.

Subtrope of Five-Second Foreshadowing. Often accompanied by Blood from the Mouth. Compare I'm Cold... So Cold..., where it's the character's own temperature a signal that they're dying instead of their own visual sense. Contrast Death by Disfigurement, where the eyes are physically damaged, while this is just the body failing to the point where sight also failsnote , Go into the Light and My Life Flashed Before My Eyes. Not to be confused with Darkness Equals Death, where the scene getting dark indicates that something deadly is nearby.

Death Tropes are Spoilers Off by default, so all spoilers were removed and all entries folderized. Proceed with caution. You Have Been Warned.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the final episode of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, Hideo Kuze is taken into custody by the government, thrown into the back of a van, and unceremoniously injected with nanomachines that will shut down his body and brain functions. As his vision begins to go blurry, he comments that he's going on ahead, implying that he achieved his ultimate goal of successfully uploading his consciousness onto the net.
  • Meruem, the Chimera Ant King from Hunter × Hunter ends up suffering from radiation poisoning in the aftermath of barely surviving a Fantastic Nuke. After recovering his memory and remembering the existence of Komugi, a little girl who was the key towards his character development, he seeks her out in order to enjoy playing games with her until he finally succumbs. He explains to her that the poisoning is highly contagious, and Komugi will pass away soon as well. She is happy to be with him, so she doesn't mind. It is implied that his vision began to fade, as every few seconds he would ask:
    Meruem: Komugi, are you there?
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind: Halfway through the comic, Bruno Buccelatti is killed by the Big Bad and healed by The Protagonist's Stand, allowing him to keep moving forward and fight out of sheer will, until the final chapters of the comic, where his blindness makes him realize that he's running out of will and strength to fight, and will be dead for real soon.
  • At the start of Oshi no Ko, Goro, who later reincarnates as Aqua, runs afoul of a man stalking his favorite idol, Ai Hoshino. After being attacked by the stalker, he spends a page unable to see anything and confused as to what is going on, then the next page shows his dead body.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Parodied in The Mask. While the title character is performing his award-winning death scene, he says "Hold me, Ed...It's getting dark".
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: As he lies in Éowyn's arms dying from the mortal wounds inflicted upon him by the Witch-King in the aftermath of the Battle of Pelennor Fields, Théoden comments, "My eyes darken," before trying to comfort his niece and proudly declaring he no longer feels ashamed of himself for letting Saruman nearly destroy Rohan.

    Light Novel 
  • In the final episode of Sword Art Online Alicization, Eugeo calls out for Kirito before he succumbs to his wounds. His eyes were glazed over, indicating he couldn't see anymore. Kirito was by his side the entire time and held him in his arm as he finally passed away, saying he saw him "sparkling in the darkness, just like the stars" through his Reflectionless Useless Eyes.

  • Isaac Asimov's "The Bicentennial Man": In the last chapter, Andrew's vision is turning gray as it fades, and the last person he sees before dying is Li-Hsing. After his vision fades, the narration leaves his perspective and returns to an objective description to state that Andrew whispers "Little Miss" with his last breath, despite the fact that she died over a century ago.
  • Biggles: In "The Decoy" the dying pilot Batson's last words are "It's getting - devilish - dark - Biggles - devilish - dark —"
  • In Dreamsnake, this happens to the terminally ill Jesse shortly before she chooses assisted suicide by cobra. The twist is that it's caused by cerebral hemorrhaging from radiation exposure.
  • The Lord of the Rings: While Théoden lies dying on the Pelennor, he tells Merry not to grieve his passing and to send for Éomer because his eyes darken, and he wants to see him before he passes.
  • Warrior Cats: Darkstripe's last words as he dies are "It's all dark - everything's gone..."
  • When Mr. Toad pretends to be dying in The Wind in the Willows, he says, "Is it dark in here?!".

    Live Action TV 
  • In the Horatio Hornblower episode "The Even Chance", Clayton is wounded in the duel. On his death bed, he asks Hornblower whether it is evening and then dies.
  • One of the deaths depicted in 1000 Ways to Die has a pair of would-be Prohibition-era bootleggers unwittingly drink pure methanol, which metabolizes into formic acid in their bloodstreams and leads to death by organ failure. For one of the bootleggers, his eyes are the first organs to shut down, caused by the buildup of formic acid in his retinas.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Tain comments how everything has gone dark as he lies on his deathbed. Garak takes advantage of this and has Bashir sit in the background, allowing the doctor to witness him at his most vulnerable as a sign of their friendship.

  • In the Bob Dylan song "Knocking on Heaven's Door", a man who knows he is about to die ("I feel I'm knocking on Heaven's door") also notes "it's getting dark, too dark to see". The song was written for the soundtrack of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973), where it plays while a lawman who has been mortally wounded in a gunfight is dying.

  • Accepted lore in the Roman Catholic Church is that during the dying process, the last sense to fade is that of hearing: the priest presiding over the Last Rites is expected to keep up the spoken ritual for as long as it takes as a comfort to the dying person as they go into the dark. This is alluded to by authors like Neil da Souza, whose Bless Me Father stories are accounts of his time as a Catholic priest.

  • Near the end of Faust: Second Part of the Tragedy, when Faust is an old man nearing his death, a demon called Care breathes upon his eyes, and he becomes blind.
  • In Les Misérables, during Fantine's death scene she mentions "a darkeness that comes without a warning" and, after things grow dark for her, she spends her last moments in a happy, feverish delirium.

    Video Games 
  • In The Hidden Ones DLC of Assassin's Creed Origins, while Tahira is dying of dehydration, she moans that the world is growing dark around her.
  • Due to the Permadeath nature of Fire Emblem, many characters get an opportunity to comment on this:
    • Radiant Dawn: If Nephenee is killed after joining the player's army, her dying words suggest that she's been blinded by her injuries.
      "...It's darker than a prairie night... Why can't I...see...anything...?"
      • In Path of Radiance, she gets more:
      (As an allied NPC): Everything's... so dark... I... don't want to...
      (As a member of the player's army): The world... It grows... so... dark...
    • Isadora's last words if you let her die in The Blazing Blade:
      "Harken... Where are you? I... I can't see anything..."
    • In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, if Felix is killed as a player unit after the Time Skip:
      "Where's my weapon? Damn it! Can't see... anything."
    • In Fire Emblem Engage, if Fogado's HP reaches 0 after a certain point in the story:
      "I...I can't see anything..."
  • When Matriarch Benezia dies in Mass Effect her last words are "No light? They told me there would be light..." implying that she has lost her visual senses first.
  • Subverted in Phantasy Star Online 2es. In the last chapters of Season 1, one of the heroes is hooked up to a machine that will allow the villain to absorb her. As it slowly shuts her down, she first loses the eyesight, then the hearing... when her allies arrive and rescue her. However, it doesn't involve a literal death.
  • World of Warcraft: Arthas' last words in Wrath of the Lich King were "I see only darkness before me." As seen in Shadowlands, that darkness was his soul being thrown into The Maw.
  • In the Subnautica games, the screen will slowly grow dark as the Player Character runs out of air. However, even if it's gone completely dark you still have a a second or two to reach the surface.

    Visual Novels 
  • Subverted in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, the victim of the third chapter, Romein LeTouse, is able to say a few things to Apollo before dying. Among them is "Can't see" which Apollo interprets as him saying that he has lost his vision. During the trial, Klavier points out that LeTouse was actually referring to the witness, Lamiroir, and not himself.

  • When Rowan in Boy and Dog does a slow, dramatic fall, he pretends to be dying and says, "All is dark".

    Web Original 
  • Minilife TV: In "Crossing Ian", after Diego Sanchez saves Ian's life by taking a bullet from an assassin, he says that everything is going dark before dying, though Ian believes it's just because he's wearing sunglasses.

    Western Animation 
  • Bugs Bunny would ham up a "Oooh, I'm dying! Everything's getting dark..." speech to make Elmer Fudd or someone think he's been shot, poisoned, etc. — just before "miraculously recovering" to give his foe a swift kick in the ass!

    Real Life 
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's last words are generally recorded as "Mehr Licht!", translating as "More light!", suggesting that he could no longer see shortly before his death.
  • Mars Rover Opportunity's final message was "My battery is low and it is getting dark."