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The Nothing After Death

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Anubis: In life, you believed in nothing. You will go to nothing. You will be done. There will be darkness.
Laura: And peace?
Anubis: There will be darkness.

The Nothingness is an afterlife where souls go to a bleak, featureless Plane of (Non) Existence. Whether or not this "non-existence" involves the souls existence and whether or not souls are consciously aware of the lack of existence around them is Depending on the Writer.

Not to be confused with the idea that there is literally nothing after death: no darkness, no featureless planes, no conscious awareness, simply a Cessation of Existence. Some people find that thought comforting; to others, it is worse. This trope is when there is something after death, and that something is empty space.

Sometimes this is used as an Ironic Hell against a Flat-Earth Atheist, but just as frequently, Nothingness does not discriminate and everyone, good and bad, goes there.

This is one of many ways to depict Hell, since isolation isn't exactly peachy. A step below Purgatory and Limbo, within which, bleak or dull though it may be, at least there's something. A possible explanation for Death Amnesia, and a possible destination for those who are Barred from the Afterlife. Compare Void Between the Worlds, another type of empty dimension. See also White Void Room, which may be the easiest visual way to depict the Nothingness. A frequent purpose for people who try to build an Artificial Afterlife is to avoid this or the Cessation of Existence.

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


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Death Note:
    • At the end of the series Ryuk is shown to have told Light in a flashback that there's no Heaven or Hell for anyone; at the beginning of the series, he had told him that this was the case only for Death Note users. In the Anime, this is shown through an eyecatch, where it's said that the place people go after they die is Mu, "Nothingness". It's not clear if this means this trope or Cessation of Existence, and it seems up to the audience to decide, but either way it's a rather bleak peek into existentialism.
    • Interestingly, while the human afterlife is not known for certain, the Shinigami World is depicted exactly like the classical Hades, Yomi, or Sheol: a bleak and dreary place with not much happening, something that bores Ryuk enough for him to drop the Death Note to the Human World and cause the events of the series to happen in the first place.
  • In Paprika, death is symbolized as a black hole if you're in the dying person's mind. And due to the MacGuffin's Assimilation power, things get worse from there.
  • In Hoshin Engi, when Taikobo is apparently killed, he finds himself in this sort of situation and wonders if this is what death is. However, it was something else entirely.
  • Dragon Ball: This is what happens to anyone killed by King Piccolo and his creations (until they're brought back at least), since they are creatures of pure evil. The first sign of Piccolo Junior's dangerously approaching Heel–Face Turn is that Goku and Raditz were allowed to pass on to the afterlife (King Kai's planet and Hell respectively) in Dragon Ball Z.
  • Nasuverse: The concept of The Origin is fundamentally similar to this, expounded on by The Garden of Sinners. After death, souls just exist in the Origin, waiting to be recycled.
  • In Mind Game, this is where the souls of the dead are dumped by God.
  • In Death Parade, people who die are judged by arbiters who decide whether they will be reincarnated or not. The people who are denied reincarnation are sent here.
    • Notably, the main character from the above-listed Death Note makes a cameo at one point, where it is implied he is chosen to be sent here.
  • At the end of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya the People of the Moon come to get Kaguya and place a Cloak of Forgetfullness above her, which symbolizes a young woman dying tragically young and experiencing a featureless Limbo.
  • In Vinland Saga, a dying viking is disturbed to find no valkyries coming for him despite the great deeds he accomplished just before collapsing from his wounds, only greater darkness. In his last moments he concludes that there is no Valhalla or any afterlife at all. It's not known for sure if this is true or not for the setting, as earlier Thorfinn had a vision of Valhalla during a dream... except it wasn't the glorious, fun loving Warrior Heaven people imagine, but a land where the dead are gruesome, rotting corpses eternally battling and hacking each other apart.
  • In The Witch and the Beast, all souls are bound in a cycle of reincarnation. When a necromancer raises a zombie, the soul is forcibly drawn back into the body which permanently severs them from the cycle. On their second death, they will instead enter the Void, an empty plane where the soul will exist alone, its mind aware enough to perceive itself but unable to do anything else for all eternity.

    Comic Books 
  • Pierre Tombal: A particularly odd example. God and the Grim Reaper apparently exist in this universe, but the dead don't seem to go to either Heaven, Purgatory, Hell or any other sort of afterlife. They just spend their days and nights on the cemetery as residents.
  • In Runaways, Alex, and later the Gibborim, end up in an empty whiteness after kicking the bucket. Alex suggests it's a minimalist form of Hell - he tried to earn his way out by advising Molly (who thought he was Gert), but is still trapped at the end of the original run.
  • Hellblazer: John Constantine runs across a fallen angel turned Eldritch Abomination ruling over one of these. Expressly stated to be worse than Hell, it is a grey waste full of the souls of suicides, lining up to be devoured by the creature inhabiting that plane.
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe: In a parody/adaptation of Moby-Dick, the main characters are at one point swallowed by the white whale, Pinocchio style. Since at first it's very dark inside the whale's belly, one of the characters, not realizing that he's still alive — though inside the whale:
    Ismael: What... what happened ? So that's the afterlife? An infinite empty darkness?
  • After being paralyzed in a cave-in, Batwoman commits suicide so her teammates can heal her in a nearby Lazarus Pit. After being revived, she describes death as being "like riding a roller coaster in the dark".
  • Batman Vampire:
    • Dracula claims this is the case, and that between death and reawakening as a vampire is just blackness. Then again, this IS a setting with vampires, werewolves and werecats so who knows what the truth is. Batman certainly can't tell, since he wasn't vampirized through regular means.
    • Horrifyingly played straight for vampires who are staked but whose heads are not cut off — they're trapped in a Fate Worse than Death, stuck in a kind of twilight nightmare state in their own decaying bodies, aware only of a bloodlust they have no way of quenching. They can be revived from this state by removing the stake.
  • In Crisis on Infinite Earths, after the surviving positive-matter universes are merged into one, the two Supermen of Earths-1 and 2 as well as Jay Garrick and Wally West use Barry Allen's Cosmic Treadmill to find out what has happened to Earth-2 after they awakened to find themselves on a merged Earth. They soon discover their answer when the Cosmic Treadmill leads them into a dark black void of nothingness. Earth-2 Superman feels himself being pulled into this void as if that's where he truly belongs, but Earth-1 Superman pulls him back and the four of them use the Cosmic Treadmill to return to the merged Earth, where the Cosmic Treadmill was destroyed.
  • In The Sculptor, Death shows David a vision of the afterlife, represented by two pages of blank, white paper.
  • In Warren Ellis's run on Stormwatch, the High puts together a team of superhumans explicitly to threaten the existing status quo. One of them, Eidolon, died and came back to spread the word that there is no God or afterlife, which means it's important to make the most of what life everyone has. He's then killed by "death goddess" Rose Tattoo.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): When San attempts to view Vivienne's memories of her first death and subsequent revival, due to her apparently having had a temporary Cessation of Existence when dead, San instead just sees a Nothing. San is subsequently terrified of the prospect that he might enter such a Nothing if he and Vivienne die permanently.
  • Anyone who dies in Immortality Syndrome and is brought back claims this. They usually end up deciding that life is nothing but pain and misery and the best option is to kill everyone everywhere to put an end to the torment of existence. However, this is proven to be a side effect of being resurrected. Bubbles is killed and brought back, but it has little effect on her as she knows that there's more to life than misery. The sequel, Immortality Relapse, reveals that this outlook can be countered by using Antidote X to bring the resurrected back to their senses, implying that the "doom and gloom" outlook they'd gained might be more of an evil driving force than an out and out decision.
  • Plankton's Eye View has Plankton describing the afterlife as this, a solace from all the bitter failures he experienced when he was still alive. This was soon subverted, however, when a mysterious green cube stood out from the seemingly infinite darkness, multiplied, and eventually revealed that he was actually floating in The Flying Dutchman's ghost ship, ready to be sent to Davy Jones's Locker to be damned forever.
  • Played with in The Lion King Adventures. While good people go to Heaven/the Great Beyond upon death, this is the fate that awaits evil-doers.
  • In Pony POV Series, this technically exists, but it's only one of several afterlives and not the one most end up it. It is the domain of Entropy, the Concept of Heat Death and the End of All Things, and is were half of the souls of those erased from existence end up (their Shadow of Existence to be exact, their light returning to Fauna Luster to be reborn). It's implied those who strongly desire to no longer exist after death end up here as well, but that's only implied and never shown.
  • In the Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality Recursive Fanfiction Following the Phoenix, this is what all human souls ended up experiencing after Atlantis disappeared without building a decent afterlife or resurrection method, even though they had already created souls. They just… float… in some unspecified dimension/region of space called the Ether by Cadmus Peverell, in a sleep-like state. They can be called back thanks to the Resurrection Stone or end up as ghosts, but in either case, those thus brought back are unable to form original thoughts or change their minds about anything, though they can chat about when they were alive.
  • It's suggested Ulquiorra wound up here in the opening chapter of A Hollow in Equestria before Discord found him and brought him to Equestria. At times he wonders if he was better off in the nothingness.
  • In Wednesday and the Weeping Angel, Wednesday believes that angels give people false hope that there is something besides oblivion after death.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Though we know thanks to other entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that there is an afterlife, and more than one, Shuri tragically comes to believe this is the case during the events of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Not only did her prayer to save T'Challa's life from his illness go unanswered, but her loved ones did not appear to reunite with her once she took the synthetic heart-shaped herb, leaving only the monstrous Killmonger to confront her. With this, she bitterly laughs off being asked to respect her brother and mother's memories, since as far as she is concerned, they are dead and their souls and ideals with them. Ramonda finally appears to Shuri during the climax from the Ancestral Plane, however, finally convincing Shuri that her loved ones are still there for her.
  • Not shown or even explicitly described as such, but perhaps evoked in Full Metal Jacket:
    Private Joker: The dead know only one thing: it is better to be alive.
  • In a Deleted Scene in Dogma, Azrael explains that Hell started off like this — just the absence of God, nothing more. As far as he was concerned, that was punishment enough — but then humans started showing up, and their incorrigible belief that they deserved a "real" punishment turned it into Fire and Brimstone Hell.
  • The Beyond, by Lucio Fulci. The afterlife is depicted as a blank gray wasteland littered with corpses.
  • If the medium is to be believed then this is what befell the murdered husband in Rashomon.
  • Cruel and Unusual: Doris believed when she died there would be just blackness and silence, but instead has been stuck reliving her suicide for decades in the afterlife.
  • The Night House: Beth says that when she died she saw nothing, and this leads her to term her and Owen's existential fear "the Nothing".
  • The Sea Inside: That's what Ramon (who is going to kill himself) believes is waiting for him, after Rosa asks him to show her a sign from the grave if there's life after death.

  • In Life, the Universe and Everything, this is how Arthur Dent experiences death when he hasn't died or even been injured in any way but is just caught unawares when he stumbles into an immersive VR room while it is powering on.
  • In The Divine Comedy this is how Limbo, the first circle of Hell, is described. An utterly dark land of no pain, no harm... and no hope. All you can hear are the sighs of the virtuous non-christians: trapped because they were virtuous enough to avoid Hell, but did not give themselves to God to meet him in Heaven (whether they have to climb). Dante downplays the "nothingness" here since there's a city in this wasteland, full of the Light of Human Reason, where all the pre-Christian philosophers and scientists have built a home for themselves. However, while it's nice, it's not Heaven nor can the people there hope to reach it because The Light of Human Reason is not a true substitute for God's divine salvation.
  • Inferno (Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle), a book by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle as a 20th century update of Dante, has the protagonist stuck in his own pocket universe of nothingness after death until he finally breaks down and calls out to God to rescue him.
  • Neverwhere: When asked what death is like, the Marquis de Carabas says "It's very cold, my friend. Very dark and very cold".
  • Hell in C. S. Lewis' The Great Divorce is a borderline version of this—a bleak "city" which has been created by the minds of the people there, but which is not really substantial. Eventually "night" will fall on the city and even this existence will give way to something still less real. Hell is also "microscopic" compared to heaven—the visitors in heaven are shown to have emerged from a tiny crack in the ground, enlarging as they go.
  • He also offers a more nightmarish subversion in Perelandra: Weston becomes possessed by Earth's Oyarsa (Satan) and subsequently becomes an animated corpse. Towards the climax, Weston resurfaces, apparently having experienced damnation. His description matches this trope, but Ransom also infers the added twist that the damned all eventually merge with Satan for eternity.
    • Ransom also comes to doubt Weston's account—it's possible that the demon was simply imitating Weston in an attempt to discourage Ransom. The speaker referring to Perelandra as "Perelandra" instead of "Venus" might seem to be a clue in favor of this, except that the real Weston is also on record as saying that the Old Solar names for the planets are their "real names," and so he prefers to use these.
  • The Isaac Asimov short story "The Last Answer" has an atheist learn from God himself that the afterlife is like this — for all the people chosen to receive one. After being driven to Rage Against the Heavens, he realizes that God planned his rage to create minds that could kill him because he's a Death Seeker.
    • Another Asimov story has the Last Trump played, and everyone who has died is resurrected. Buildings, clothing, everything but people starts to disintegrate, the landscape is leveling itself out and the stars go out. A character says this is to create Hell: "Visions of hellfire and damnation were very childish. A featureless eternity will be hell for a species that can't occupy itself for a wet weekend". This is pretty much the description of the Jewish version of hell, Gehenna - Asimov himself, of course, was Jewish.
    • Subverted in his short story Escape!, in which seems to play it straight initially but it turns out that hyperspace travelers experience "non-existence" for the duration of the trip. Why do they experience anything, you ask? The ship computer was fucking with their heads as a joke. Hey, it has the personality of an eight-year-old. Give it a break.
  • In The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, "todash space" is the void outside the universes. People don't usually go there at death, but they can be trapped there, and the entire multiverse is in danger of collapsing into it. The occasional Eldritch Abomination roams through it eating the unfortunate—or maybe that's better than staying out there forever?
    • King's short story "The Jaunt" is about a teleportation machine which transports the body instantly from one location to another, but consciousness takes what seems like millions of years to get there. For this reason, anyone who uses it has to be rendered unconscious before teleportation. They found out the hard way by offering a convicted murderer his freedom in exchange for testing it after it killed a lab rat; he managed to say "it's eternity in there" before dying of a heart attack. A man disposed of his cheating wife by pushing her in with no destination; his defense at his murder trial was that she wasn't actually dead, but the jury thought that was actually worse. The Mafia used it as a "Jimmy Hoffa" machine, but their victims had the considerable fortune of already being dead.
  • In His Dark Materials, The afterlife is a flat, featureless plane where the only thing that breaks up the monotony is random harpy attacks. Will and Lyra arrange for everyone in there to get oblivion instead, which is a far better (in the protagonists' opinions) fate, as it allows the atoms making up a person's ghost to distribute themselves back into the physical world. Oblivion of consciousness, yes, but a roundabout return to life.
    • Those who fall into the Abyss in the world of the dead experience almost exactly this. Their souls continue to fall into the nothingness for eternity.
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Elven afterlife, the "Halls of Mandos", is described in much these terms in The Silmarillion, though it's usually temporary, more of a holding cell before elves are reincarnated. Except for the really weary elf and the really sinful elf. For Dwarves, though, this is indeed their fate. They remain in the halls, waiting till Doomsday. Humans go to the Timeless Halls of Ilúvatar (God) until doomsday, when all the afterlifes will merge into the New Arda.
    • The first Dark Lord Morgoth often tries to convince humans that there is nothing beyond the physical world, and "God" (Eru) does not exist, so therefore his followers should worship Morgoth himself. Particularly, in The Children of Húrin he taunts the captive hero Húrin that there is nothing in the void beyond the world, and he knows because he has been there. Even after Morgoth's defeat, his right-hand lieutenant Sauron adamantly denies Eru, and sets up temples for Morgoth-worship. As Tolkien himself pointed out, Word of God on God as it were, this is inherently hypocritical: it is impossible for either Morgoth or Sauron to be a "true atheist", because they are fallen Angels that have literally met and interacted with God (Eru) in the past.
    • Peter Jackson's live-action adaptation gives Sauron new lines, when he's talking to Frodo when he puts the Ring on at Bree. The lines aren't from Sauron in the book, though they do echo what Morgoth said to Húrin in the Silmarillion: "There is no life in the Void! Only death!"
  • Several Terry Pratchett Discworld novels have the dead transported to a featureless desert of black sand, leaving you alone with your beliefs. This may not be a true example, because it's implied that there is an afterlife at the end of the desert. On the other hand, for souls that are too afraid of being alone with their beliefs to cross the desert, this can act as The Nothing After Death. Meanwhile, at least one golem that ended up in this desert has simply laid back and relaxed, finding a nothingness with no work to do a true paradise. It is, however, confirmed that the afterlife contains no pickles or chutneys. There's jam. Jam works.
  • The Turkey Farm in Kurt Vonnegut's Slapstick. Vonnegut also referred to something similar to this in Slaughterhouse-Five, where the point in time where Billy Pilgrim experiences death is presented as nothing but violet light and a hum.
  • Peter F. Hamilton's The Night's Dawn Trilogy: Science fiction author Peter F. Hamilton wrote his trilogy around this concept. The souls of the dead are trapped in The Beyond where they can see our world but not touch it; the series tells of what happens when they find a means of crossing back into the real world by possessing the bodies of the living. People soon begin to wonder why all those who return from the dead seem to be evil, or at least morally bankrupt and it's revealed toward the end of the third book that only people who are unwilling to let go of their mortal lives, or believe they are not worthy of an afterlife, are stuck in this non-existence: those who accept the end of their life move on somewhere else.
  • This concept is explored in Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, on several levels. There is a plane of existence between life and death which is absolutely featureless but reflects the thoughts and memories of those trapped there. As a completely spiritual realm, distance and physicality are irrelevant, so it's possible to converse with those with whom you share a metaphysical connection no matter how far away. The realm acts as a gateway to true death, and it's incredibly rare for anyone to return. (That Simon does is a major plot point.) In addition, the Sithi speak of the concept of Unbeing, which is quite literally a force that seeks to unmake reality, and those consumed by it are Deader than Dead. They fled from it to Osten Ard, but failed to escape its shadow, and the Big Bad Storm King ultimately seeks to bring Unbeing to the entire world in revenge for the destruction of everything he loved in life.
  • Though there's no direct textual evidence for this, readers of Edgar Allan Poe sometimes suspect that the narrators are speaking from this vantage point, telling the stories of their lives to themselves to try to, in the words of one critic, "try to persuade themselves that they're not dead".
  • In the Earthsea series, the land of death is presented as a dark, dry, unchanging place where the dead keep their names, but not their spirit.
  • In American Gods, people who pass judgement are permitted to choose their destination. Shadow asks for Cessation of Existence but ends up with a version of this trope where he's mindlessly happy. He ends up getting brought back to life anyway.
  • In Robert Cormier's novel In the Middle of the Night, a girl dies in an accident and discovers an especially horrible version of this. You don't get any sensory input, and you also can't exactly think (because your brain is dead), but you are still self-aware—and it never ends. (The girl miraculously comes back to life and spends the rest of her life plotting revenge against the person she's Mis-blamed for the accident.)
  • In the round-robin Naked Came the Manatee, co-authored by Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, Dave Barry and ten other famous Floridian authors, this is what happens to Marion the centenarian ex-environmentalist.
  • Combined with Mundane Afterlife in Crime and Punishment: Svidrigaylov speculates that afterlife is just a dusty, dark room where you spend all of eternity.
  • In Journeys of the Catechist, Etjole Ehomba is killed, and briefly goes where the dead go. He's surrounded by the spirits of others, with whom he can't directly interact. There is no sense of a deity, he notices, and everyone around him seems to wonder what time it is, and then immediately remark that they'd just arrived. Later, after being resurrected, he describes the entire experience as boring.
  • In Anne Rice's Memnoch the Devil, the eponymous character takes Lestat on a journey through the ages and shows the truth (his version, at least) behind the creation and everything after. After humans gained souls (through evolution, not through something God did, which freaked the angels out), the dead souls ended up trapped in a metaphysical layer above Earth called Sheol. Behind disembodied entities, there was little they could do. Some managed to get back to Earth and mess with people. This is how we got stories of ghosts and spirits. It wasn't until Memnoch found a group who found peace in forgiving their creator (whereas everyone else was bitter) that he managed to convince God to allow human souls to enter Heaven. The first batch who did instantly transformed it into the garden of Eden everyone assumes it to be. Memnoch's constant disagreements with God about the fate of the humans resulted in his banishment, after which God asked him to contemplate creating Gehenna, Hell. Thus Memnoch turned Sheol into Hell in an effort to prove God that humans can be made to forgive God given sufficient "encouragement". Of course, this is less like the Christian version of Hell, which you can never leave, and more like Purgatory.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Seekers of the Sky, Hell is a frozen wasteland, and you're all alone in there. It's also hinted that the Cold is actually Hell.
  • In Jennifer Crusie's Maybe This Time, when Andie finally screams at a ghost to just "go into the light, dammit," the ghost cries out in anguish, "There is no light!".
  • Lovecraft's Ex Oblivione. Also the hoped-for afterlife of one tribe in The Quest of Iranon.
  • In Charles de Lint's "Drink Down the Moon" from Jack of Kinrowan, Jackie is brought into a "void" where she retains full consciousness while losing all sense of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, after being told it is what happens when people die.
  • In The Reader (2016), most people in the book's setting believe in this, and that the only way a soul carries on is by telling their stories.
  • The queen in Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen has a nightmare where the Odd Sisters tell her that this is her fate if she doesn't kill her daughter Snow White. Her soul will rot and after years of misery she will die, however not even in death will she find peace. The Magic Mirror will keep her alive even in death. She'll be stuck in perpetual darkness forever and be unable to escape. This all foreshadows the Queen's spiral from Beauty to Beast and the ending where she becomes trapped in the mirror after her suicide.
  • The Neverending Story: "The Nothing". Characters from Fantastica who are swallowed are "reborn" in the real world - as lies (at least that's what Gmork claims). It's implied that The Nothing is caused by people in the real world becoming less honest and happy.
  • In I Will Fear No Evil, the protagonist – a voluntary brain transplant donor – thinks he may be in this state, until his sensory nerves reconnect.
  • The Camp Half-Blood Series features the Fields of Asphodel from Greek mythology, where people who are neither good nor evil enough (which is basically the vast majority of people on Earth) are sent to after death. Hazel Levesque spent over 70 years here after her first death, because she made an offer to ease her evil mother's punishment; Hazel was originally destined for Elysium, while her mother was destined for the Fields of Punishment. Hazel doesn't seem to be too affected by it, since it's hard to measure time in the Underworld, though there is nothing to do except walk and walk forever.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Madison from American Horror Story: Coven claims this is what's in store for people in the afterlife - a cold nothingness void. This is one of the reasons why she's so empty after being revived. She seeks comfort in Kyle, because he also experienced that empty void. Ultimately averted when the existence of hell is confirmed. Though it is possible that those not wicked enough simply go to the cold, empty void.
  • One episode of Babylon 5 warns telepaths not to linger in a dying person's mind, lest they be pulled into the black void that is death.
  • Played with in an episode of Batman (1966), believe it or not. In "The Riddling Controversy", the Riddler — who has already come close to crossing the Moral Event Horizon by stealing money intended for starving children — buys a device from a Mad Scientist that the scientist claims causes matter to completely disappear. The Riddler tries out the device on his hat — and once it has disappeared, he tells the scientist "Make it come back now"... only to be told that the technology to reverse the device's effects has not been created yet. So the things — and, potentially, people — that the Riddler causes to disappear are still somewhere, but it's obviously some place no one on Earth can see (and assuming the scientist never completes his research, they will stay in that strange place forever). Delighted with the results, the Riddler threatens to make Gotham City Police Headquarters disappear unless City Hall legalizes all crime in Gotham. When he hears that Commissioner Gordon, Chief O'Hara, and their bomb squad have refused to evacuate the building, the Riddler is completely without remorse: "Let [Gordon] go down with his building". Pretty grim for a series that was essentially a comedy, and on which only two characters ever died onscreen.
  • In Being Human (UK), undead characters tell outsiders that heaven is like your typical Fluffy Cloud Heaven, but confide amongst each other that it's more like a long, dark corridor, where the only other people are "the men with sticks and ropes" who wait at the end.
    • In the Series 1 finale, Annie (the ghost) realizes that she is about to "move on" when a literal door to the afterlife materializes. One of her friends asks her if the door leads to "something good, or... something else?" Annie replies, "I think it's something else".
    • In Series 2, after Annie has been dragged through the door against her will, she complains of having to fill out forms.
    • By the end of Series 4, both a good and bad afterlife have been strongly hinted at; Word of God has further confirmed that the original cast was reunited in the afterlife.
  • After Slade's death in Cleverman, his soul is seen vanishing into a black void. This might be because of a side-effect of his occult dabblings, or it might be simply that the afterlife despised him.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • The Red Priestess Melisandre is shown Beric Dondarrion, a knight-turned-outlaw who has been killed and resurrected six times.
    Melisandre: You've been to the other side.
    Dondarrion: The other side? There is no 'other side'. I have been to the darkness, my lady.
    • Jon Snow also describes this as being the case after Melisandre brings him back from the dead in Season 6.
    Melisandre: What did you see?
    Jon: Nothing. There was nothing at all!
  • Gotham: After Jerome is brought back from the dead, he describes the afterlife as a place of absolute and featureless darkness.
  • Iron Fist (2017): After the resurrected Harold Meachum kills his assistant Kyle in a random outburst, he says to the corpse, "It's okay. I've been where you're going. It's not so bad. It's just... nothingness." In a later episode, Harold elaborates to Joy on what it was like for him in between his death from cancer and his resurrection by the Hand.
  • The eponymous character of Murphy Brown spends an entire episode asking people about their thoughts on the afterlife after asking herself what she will tell her son when he is old enough to ask where people go where they die. Miles ends up having a freak-out after speculating that it may be this trope, described in terms much like the ones at the top of the page.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • When Neelix is brought back from the dead in "Mortal Coil", he remembers nothing of the afterlife. Since he was expecting to be reunited with his family, you kinda feel sorry for him...
    • Followed up on in the 5th season premiere "Night", in which Voyager is traveling through an area of space without any stars, and the Doctor gives Neelix a diagnosis of his fear:
      The Doctor: Nihiliphobia: the fear of nothingness. Or in Layman's Terms, the fear of... nothingness. If it's any consolation, I can relate to it. I go into a void every time I'm deactivated. Emptiness, complete and utter oblivion. I'll admit, it was unsettling at first — the existential horror of it all...
  • Supernatural: Season 11 reveals the existence of "the Empty", a void separate from the other afterlife dimensions (Heaven, Hell, etc.) that is implied to be this. In the episode "Form and Void", the Reaper Billie tells Sam that the Reapers are all fairly pissed that the brothers killed their boss (Death himself) at the end of the last season, not to mention they've been sick of the two of them repeatedly dying and coming back to life for a good while now, so the next time they die, Billie will personally send their souls to the Empty to ensure they'll never be able to come back again. It's later confirmed that the Empty is a black void predating God and Amara and all of reality, and that it's actually where the consciousnesses of angels, demons and The Soulless go when they die, where they sleep for eternity. The Empty is also itself sentient, although it doesn't like it when forces within reality force it to awaken from its slumber.
  • Torchwood:
    • In "They Keep Killing Suzie", after bringing Suzie back, she explains that the afterlife consists of total darkness, with nothing but the footsteps of an ominous creature that lurks within The Rift.
    • In "Dead Man Walking", Owen notes that there was nothing he can remember, raising the possibility of Death Amnesia. That also may have been an effect of the resurrection gauntlet, since Owen experienced the same thing after he was brought back, albeit with a different glove, but since the only person who ever comes back from death without the gauntlet is Jack, and his description of death is just that there's nothing, it's possible that normal death is literally nothing rather than a featureless plane. Suzie and Owen weren't especially nice people, however, so there is another interpretation.
    • In series eight of the parent show Doctor Who, however, this is all vaguely contradicted. There are a bunch of deceased people in a matrix, but even after that matrix ceases function, there seems to be ... a somewhere after — though considering that it is the Time Lords, they might have simply been moved to another version of the matrix through the use of time-travel.
  • This seems to be the standard fate of supernatural beings in The Vampire Diaries. To be specific, the souls anyone who died while existing in a supernatural state (i.e. vampire, werewolf, witch, hybrid, etc) goes to a place known simply as the "Other Side". In this state, while one can see and hear the living world around them, they are entirely unable to interact with those who are still alive and are implied to have little to no contact with those also trapped in this situation.
  • In the Warehouse 13 episode "Time Will Tell", MacPherson claims to have experienced this between burning to death in a house fire and resurrecting. He's shocked to learn that Artie experienced a more pleasant afterlife following his own temporary death.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: After realizing that she will never get the satisfaction she desires no matter how much revenge she gets, this is Callisto's one desire. Subverted quite ironically, as she experiences more versions of the afterlife than any other character except for this.

  • The subject of the song I Will Follow You Into The Dark by Death Cab for Cutie is the singer reassuring their love that if this is where they end up when they die, he'll follow her when he dies so she won't have to be alone. Word of God says that the "dark" is more metaphorical for "we don't know what happens" than actual darkness, but that still applies.
  • Hinted at in a couple of songs by The Doors:
    • "End of the Night" (1967): "Realms of bliss / Realms of light / Some are born to sweet delight / ...Some are born to the endless night..."
    • "The Soft Parade" (1969): "All our lives we sweat and save / Building for a shallow grave..."
  • Amy Ray has a rare positive take on this type of afterlife in her song Fine With the Dark:

    Yeah well everybody's talking about that
    Great white light that they
    See in the end
    If you lived right
    I don't know about that
    But I know what I need

    You can't see the stars if there's
    Too much light
    Ain't nothing like
    Holding you in the middle of the night
    After getting burned
    By the sun
    In a hard life's work
    I'm fine with the dark

    Myths and Religion 
  • One theological position derived from The Four Gospels is that the suffering of Hell comes from its utter isolation, emptiness and separation from God after glimpsing His incredible glory. See The Outer Darkness for more.
  • The Bardo state in Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Greek Mythology's Hades (More specifically, the Asphodel Meadows) was a lot like this: a quiet, lonely place underground with nothing much happening. The only alternatives were Tartarus, a hellish place where those who angered the gods went, and the Elysian Fields, where the heroes of antiquity wound up. Unfortunately for Greeks, you had to be a real bastard or a real saint to get into those, respectively, so for the vast majority of the population, who simply lived a normal life, this is where they'd be headed. That's not to say the meadows weren't a nice place; you'd get to spend your long post-life walking among the serene meadows of asphodel flowers, but this would come at the small price of losing your memories if you chose to drink from the River Lethe, which runs through the area. It's thought Asphodel Meadows' relatively boring environment compared to Elysian Fields and Tartarus was intentionally described this way to encourage people to take up arms and join the military, since if you died in war there's a good chance you'd be considered a hero after death, granting you access to the Fields.
  • Islam has Barzakh, a purgatory that all humans end up in upon death, where they will stay until the world ends and the Final Judgment commences.
  • Norse Mythology has many places the dead can go after they pass on. All of them have something happening, whether that's training for the End (i.e. Odin's and Freyja's halls), living and dining peacefully with your kin, free from worldly illnesses and pains (i.e. Helheim), or being tortured for all eternity (i.e. Nidhog's maw or Niflhel). There's even reincarnation within the family line. The Nothing After Death in Norse Mythology comes in one of these alternatives; the dead can reside in their graves if they so choose. Sometimes, this means they roam the Earth, but other times, it means that they literally stay in the ground and do nothing.
  • Irkalla, the Babylonian/Sumerian afterlife described to which everyone — even kings and heroes — exists in dust and darkness, ruled over by the goddess Ereshkigall (sometimes also called Irkalla, the name of her realm) and among the Babylonians, also her consort, the god Nergal. Irkalla appears in the The Descent of Inanna and The Epic of Gilgamesh. In appearance its residents are arguably Cursed with Awesome— they have dark wings and possibly some vampire aspects. The Sumerians, from whom the epic is thought to originate, would bury their dead with toys, board games, and musical instruments to help pass the time.
  • Sheol is the earliest Jewish concept of an afterlife, if it can be called an afterlife at all. It is mostly a kind of "nothingness" after death. In English it has been translated variously as "Hell", "the grave", and "the pit". Depending on what life was like it can be a relief from pain but is generally bleak and in itself it is not a place of punishment or reward. It is simply the existence/place to which the all dead go (Job 3:11-19). It somewhat resembles the afterlife of some of the Jews' semitic brethren like the Babylonians. It is "A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without and order, and where the light is as darkness" (Job 10:21). It is a "land of forgetfulness" (Ps. 88:3-12) from which no one ever returns (Job 7:9) and is cut off from God and the world of the living. Sometimes it is said that God's power can reach into Sheol (Ps. 139:8) or that the spirits of the dead can be summoned to the world of the living (1 Sam. 28) but mostly it is indicated that the dead are simply gone forever. They whisper from the dust (Isa. 29:4) and exist as disincarnate "shadows" of their true living selves, an existence that is hardly existing at all. Ideas about this later evolved among some currents within Judaism and in Christianity, which also accepts Jewish scriptures as canon.
    • One Jewish prayer honors God for "keeping faith with those who sleep in the dust". While this could refer to bodies buried in the ground, which did happen, burials in that part of the world in Biblical times tended to be two-part: an entombment in a re-usable space to allow the flesh to rot away entirely, followed by a second burial in an ossuary, which took up less space. The line could thus refer to the after-life: a bleak place of dust possibly made more bearable because the soul can sleep through it while waiting for resurrection.
  • Japanese Mythology: In Shinto, death is associated with pollution and the unclean and a general, barren land of the dead. It's not surprising that the ideals of Buddhism were later woven into something of this, giving a more optimistic depiction.

    Tabletop Games 

  • Eberron: Dolurrh, the only provable afterlife, is like this. Souls go there and slowly lose their memories and waste away, until they eventually fade into nothingness. Most religions either claim they have some way of avoiding it (the Silver Flame claims its worshipers join the Flame on death, while seekers of the Blood of Vol work to obtain divine apotheosis) or that there's something that comes after the fading (vassals of the Sovereigns believe that after fading from Dolurrh souls will join the Sovereigns beyond). To make this even bleaker, unlike in most Dungeons & Dragons settings, religions in Eberron are truly based on faith, rather than verifiable fact. So no one has any actual proof that there's anything waiting for them besides emptiness.
    Lei: Dolurrh isn't a punishment. It isn't a reward. It just is.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The 3.5 Tome of Magic introduces a class called Binders whose shtick is dealing with souls who have experienced this. For whatever reason, they are barred from any sort of afterlife and exist in a state of nothingness, and are thus willing to "bind" to the Binder and grant him some of their power in return for getting to exist once more. Two examples of beings this happened to are Acererak from Tomb of Horrors (serves him right for what he put a generation of gamers through), and a thief who thought it would be funny to repent at the last moment, thus "stealing" his soul from Olidammara the god of thieves. Olidammara was impressed, but couldn't very well let such a great thief belong to any other deity, so he banished him from existence instead.
  • This is the entirety of Hell in the Old World of Darkness game Demon: The Fallen. The ultimate punishment to the fallen angels was to be left in a sensationless, featureless void for all eternity. They made it even worse soon enough. While not quite the Nothing "After Death", since it isn't the afterlife (the fallen didn't die and humans don't go there), it's the same idea.
  • In the New World of Darkness, this is what all dead face. While the Underworld isn't exactly featureless, it's so empty and devoid of anything meaningful that it hardly makes a difference. Some who know about this find it kinder merely to destroy the dead and send them into oblivion than to help them pass on... to a world far worse than the one they were clinging to.
    • The good news is that the Underworld isn't permanent, and can be avoided entirely — it's where ghosts go when they lose all their anchors but still aren't ready to let go of existence. If a ghost in the Underworld does stop trying to cling to existence — for example, because someone completed its Unfinished Business for it — it moves on from the Underworld. The bad news is that no-one is sure where they move on to.
    • In truth, souls are supposed to return to the Supernal World upon death, thereafter to be reincarnated with no memories. The souls of Mages do this automatically, but others have a more difficult time of it. The Underworld was not part of the original cosmic order, but came into existence when the Abyss did; as the Abyss lay between the normal world and the Supernal Realms, it made contact with the Supernal difficult and usually one-way (souls come from the Supernal World.)
      • Well, that's what the Mages think. According to Imperial Mysteries, even the archmages have never seen any soul return to the Supernal Realms. Some Mages suspect that some souls go to the Empyrean, and others think that some souls of particularly heinous individuals go to the Lower Depths or maybe the Inferno (some think that they're the same thing). However, no one is really sure.
  • One of the Ebon Dragon's powers in Exalted can do this to anyone he kills.
  • This is what awaits everyone in Lamentations of the Flame Princess, according to the description of the Speak With Dead spell.

  • The Thornton Wilder play Our Town depicts the afterlife in this manner. There is no Heaven. There is no Hell. Every spirit, good and bad, is stuck together, sitting on their tombstone for all eternity. And even though you are given Mental Time Travel powers that let you relive any day of your life, all this does is further drive home to you how much of your life was wasted.
  • The musical adaptation of Beetlejuice plays with this. While the Netherworld has some sort of a hierarchy and day-to-day life, it is described by Juno as a numb, lonely "endless abyss of nothingness" where everybody who has ever died eventually ends up. There is the implication the only beings who can freely come and go are humans who accidentally wander in or demons. When Lydia goes into the Netherworld to avoid her fate with Beetlejuice, she tries to find her mother and is shocked to find the Netherworld is so big and empty that she could search for all eternity and never find her, even comparing it to the "emptiness of space".

    Video Games 
  • Invoked in BlazBlue by Ragna during his Astral finish:
    "There is no Hell, just Darkness".
  • Chrono Trigger:
    • Marle's temporary "death" is described like this, but it's not clear whether it was really death, since she never existed at the time; Chrono Cross later hints that she was in the Tesseract (AKA The Darkness Beyond Time), a place where erased timelines go when they are superseded.
    • Later on you can find a "Book of Life", opened to a page that reads "All life begins and ends with Nu", a rather silly pun on "Mu" (Nothingness) and made sillier by the fact that there's a Nu standing right next to the book.
  • Zigzagged in Divinity: Original Sin II. There is an afterlife, known as the Hall of Echoes, and mortals tend to hang around a bit as spirits before finally crossing over. However, once they do so, the gods stand ready to consume them, completely annihilating their souls.
  • The Elder Scrolls series generally averts it. The souls of the deceased can go to a number of different afterlives, largely depending on what deities the deceased in question worshiped or swore servitude to in life. These range from a couple types of Spirit World to variants of a Warrior Heaven to the Daedric Planes to even reincarnation via the "Dreamsleeve". There are a few known exceptions, however:
    • The worshipers of Sithis, referred to as a "great void" and a primordial force representing chaos, join him in the "The Void" surrounding creation. Joining Sithis in "The Void" is the desired afterlife for members of the Dark Brotherhood, an organization of assassins which doubles as a cult to Sithis.
    • Sentient beings who have had their souls trapped end up in in the Soul Cairn, an unaligned plane of Oblivion ruled by the mysterious Ideal Masters. It is a barren wasteland the souls are forced to wander for all eternity.
  • Fallen London:
    • The bodily soulsnote  of those who permanently die end up in the Far Shore, a realm of far too many bodies and far too little space. Whatever was originally there has since been long buried under mountains of decaying corpses.
    • Meanwhile, their spiritual souls are devoured by gods or used to power A Hell of a Time.
  • Invoked in Fallout: New Vegas: Mr. House's dying curse to the Courier if they choose to kill him has him wishing them this.
  • In Final Fantasy VI, if you die during the opening segment, you see Terra on a black screen, as she basically sums up that she's trapped in a cold, dark nothingness, before offering you the opportunity to load your save.
    • It is for practically everyone after they die, the only difference is the lead character will be on the screen instead of Terra.
  • Final Fantasy IX has the infamous Necron, who isn't exactly foreshadowed all that well by any account; but as the True Final Boss this seems to be what most agree that, at best, is what it's supposed to represent.
  • At least one afterlife of League of Legends is like this. While happens to those claimed by Kindred is up in the air, Mordekaiser notably expected to pass into the "Hall of Bones," a warrior's afterlife alongside his gods and victims, but instead found himself in a barren, sandy wasteland devoid of anything except the shades of the dead. Through force of will, he was able to build the nothingness into a fortress, and Mordekaiser now works to stock the afterlife with as many raw materials and slaves as possible.
  • Invoked in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; there is one character you come across who claims to be a fortune teller. He says that sees a future of "Blackness, a dark, endless void that you will soon occupy!" He then reveals himself as a Yiga clan member and tries to kill you.
  • Mass Effect:
    • When Matriarch Benezia lies dying in Mass Effect, she expects to see light, like the millenia old Asari religion promised her, but instead sees and feels nothing.
    • A deleted scene from Mass Effect 3 would have had Ashley asking Shepard about what he experienced while he was dead before Cerberus brought him back. Shepard could have answered with this trope.
  • Portal: GLaDOS suggests this or worse.
    "You're curious about what happens after you die, right? Guess what? I know! You're going to find out first-hand before I can finish telling you, though, so I won't bother. I'll give you a hint: you're going to want to pack as much living as you possibly can into the next couple of minutes".
  • Psychonauts 2: This is what the brains preserved by the Hall of Brains experience. When Raz enters the brain of Helmut Fullbear, it's a void of total darkness inhabited by only his sense-deprived consciousness with almost none of his memories. When placed inside a host body, Helmet is overwhelmed by all the sensations he's missed out on and Raz must help him reconnect with all of his lost senses to remember who he is.
  • In SaGa Frontier, near the end of Blue's game, you're told that trying to use Gate magic, which normally allows you to teleport between the regions, will result in you being "cast away into the eternal oblivion".
  • Shin Megami Tensei IV describes the afterlife as "Where the dead endure nothingness while awaiting reincarnation". But before you can even get that, you have to wait in line, and the line is long. So long, that Charon asks for a bribe so he can just revive you.
  • In the final episode of Tales from the Borderlands, after Helios has crashed and Jack has tried one last time to kill Rhys by forcing him to strangle himself to death with his own arm, Rhys begins ripping out all his cybernetics to get Jack out of his body for good, effectively killing him. Jack realizes what Rhys is doing, and starts frantically begging him in earnest to stop, even dropping to his knees, saying that he doesn't want to go back to being dead.
    Jack: There's nothing. There's absolutely nothing there. Don't do this.
  • In the Team Fortress 2 supplementary comic Loose Canon, Mr. Blutarch Mann knows there's nothing after death because he is hooked up to a machine that revives him daily. However, various other material shows different perspectives of the afterlife, including a traditional Fluffy Cloud Heaven and Fire and Brimstone Hell, suggesting that this nothingness might've been an Ironic Hell crafted for Blutarch personally.
    Blutarch Mann: Every day I'm dead a little longer, Mister Conagher. I have seen the other side. There is nothing there. FIX. THIS. MACHINE.
  • Wishbone and the Amazing Odyssey: Agamemnon thinks of the Elysium fields as this — he was sent there because he was a hero, but there's nothing to actually do. He ended up entertaining himself by inventing a game based on the Trojan War, and Wishbone has to face him in a round.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • Arthas' last words are thought to refer to this.
    • In Cataclysm, Sylvanas gets killed after being ambushed in Silverpine. Once resurrected by her Val'kyr, she describes her afterlife as "nothing", citing it as the reason for why the Forsaken need to avoid the Undeath Always Ends trope.
      • Sylvanas's short story on the official website reveals that after the Lich King's death, she committed suicide and found herself in a void where her soul was being torn apart. Arthas was there, and he had been reduced to the equivalent of a little boy huddling in the corner and crying. Then the val'kyr revived her, forming their bond that comes into play in Silverpine.note 
    • The Shadowlands expansion reveals that the nothingness is intentionally artificial; Arthas and Sylvanas ended up in the Maw, the Warcraft version of Hell dedicated to devouring the power of its prisoners' souls by isolating them in sensory-deprivation chambers, while spiritual abominations eat their essence. Slowly. While the Maw is intended for the blackest of hearts, something happened that forced everyone who died afterward to be Rerouted from Heaven and go straight into the Maw. This may explain the undead's instant emo attitude when they're resurrected.

    Visual Novels 
  • Umineko: When They Cry has the depths of oblivion, a horrible, horrible, horrible place where pieces go when they die. There isn't much information about it, but it is known that being locked in a small room for thousands and thousands of years until you manage to fix a logic error in your story is like jumping off a ten-story building compared to it, which is like jumping off a hundred story building. Erika doesn't seem fazed by it though. It's described as an endless dark dessert that those with the willpower or imagination can use it as a tool, with Maria drawing from it to create life, Erika using it to image new lockroom mysteries and solve the previous games, and Featherine placing the Golden Land in it to make it impossible for anyone to interfere the world, suggesting it's closer to a blank canvas then true nothingness.

    Web Animation 
  • Reynaldo The Assassin: Demons go to "The Abyss" when they die. They are, however, allowed to bring one item with them (possibly even a Get out of the Abyss Free Card).

    Web Comics 
  • I'm the Grim Reaper: This is the Ninth Circle of Hell; an empty void of deep space, without air or light, that a soul can exist in for eternity. It's as horrifying as it sounds.
  • Terror Island: Aorist's afterlife is the sit around doing nothing forever variety. Uniquely for something like this, it's blue. It's the infinite blue plane of death.
  • The main antagonists in Planescape Survival Guide are tied to the Nothing, a force of ultimate destruction that once held sway over all existence, but was defeated by the Eldest, the first God.
  • In The Gods of Arr-Kelaan, the dead are placed in an endless, flat plain, punctuated only by an impassable chasm until the person's god makes a way to pass the chasm and a custom afterlife on the other side.
  • The afterlife in It's Walky! looks something like this, with the only point of interest being the other people who are still there. It's suggested that this is either just Purgatory or just the last hurrah before Cessation of Existence; what's certain is that souls don't stay in this state forever.
  • Irregular Webcomic!: The Infinite Featureless Plane. Though it's more of a transitional phase, and we're never shown the real afterlife.
  • Looking for Group: The Demiplane of Suck might qualify as this, being naught but empty white space.
  • Death is shown this way in The Last Days of FOXHOUND, although we do see that at least some people are able to make peace with this state and find some meaning in their 'afterlife'.
  • In Mystery Babylon, Red saved Kick Girl from getting sucked into the Pit along with every other demon on Earth by removing her Mark of the Beast. As a consequence of this, however, if she dies by non-mortal means before earning a new Mark, her soul will go to an infinite void rather than to Heaven or Hell. Kick Girl has had nightmares about this, and regards it as a worse fate than going to Hell.
  • Esther of [un]Divine claims there's no Heaven of Hell, just simply nothing when you die. Being a demon, she likely knows from experience.
  • In "Eyes of a Raven" Scourge is confirmed to have gone to one such afterlife, it... might have messed him up a bit, just a little though.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Featured rather ironically (heaven, purgatory and hell are all identical, except that the TV explaining the situation is increasingly cheaper in the worse afterlives) in Fifty Percent Grey.
  • In the Moral Orel episode "Grounded": Orel has a near-death experience where he finds himself floating in nothing, although he ends up in a replica of his church. He's brought back to consciousness, but keeps having NDEs in an attempt to find more.
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of Dilbert, where the title character dies and discovers the afterlife to literally be a single cubicle in the middle of an empty plane. Later on as a result of the episode's particularly strange plot, he dies again and finds that there are now two cubicles, one of which is occupied by Wally.
  • The Warner Brothers (and sister) of all people ends up in one of these, when Wakko dies after eating too many meatballs in an eating contest in Sweden, and is claimed by The Grim Reaper from The Seventh Seal. Mind you, the Warners dont stick around for long.
    Yakko: All is strange and vague...
    Dot: Are we dead?
    Yakko: Or is this Ohio?
  • Yakko: Hey Wakko, whats it like being dead?
    Wakko: Pretty boring, I already hummed all the songs I know.
  • The Simpsons: In Holiday of Future Passed, Ned mentions that he remarried Maude's ghost who lamentably informs him that there's nothing but a meaningless void on the other side. Ned just brushes it off.

Alternative Title(s): Nothing After Death


"There will be darkness."

Laura's (initial) fate.

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5 (12 votes)

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Main / TheNothingAfterDeath

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