Buffy: Like say... immortality?
Angel: Exactly. I'm dying to get rid of that.
The worst fate possible might well be immortality. Sure, you might like the idea that you get to live forever and see what the world's like hundreds of years from now, but what's eternal life compared to the pain of life in general? From eventual boredom to eternal entrapment and torture to the emotional anguish of seeing your loved ones die, one by one, as you stay fixed in time. Then let's not forget that the Earth might be destroyed by the expanding sun in a few billion years, so if you haven't a way to leave by then you can look forward to spending eternity in space, orbiting the dying core of the sun.
Some fantasy fiction, such as R.A. Salvatore's Forgotten Realms novels and the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks published in the 1980s and 1990s, depicts demons as being horribly bored and depressed by their endless existence in Hell, the novelty of torturing their servants and fellow demons having long since worn off. Of course, their boredom and frustration make them all the more eager to torture humans and other mortal creatures when they find their way to our world.
This attitude toward immortality is Older Than Feudalism, going back at least as far as the Greek myths about Tithonos's Age Without Youth and Prometheus's punishment and of course the appeal behind He— why is your hand still up!?
Contrast Living Forever Is Awesome (for those who like it), Immortality Seeker (for those who seek it) and Eternal Love (where immortals fall in love). See Living Forever is No Big Deal for the middle ground.
See Analysis for more horrifying details.
- Anime & Manga
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- Films Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Western Animation
- In a Dilbert cartoon, an android made in Dilbert's image boasts that he will live forever and lets out an Evil Laugh. Then, a few seconds later, he complains that he's bored.
- The Phantom once dealt with a gladiator from Ancient Rome who was cursed with immortality and Nigh-Invulnerability (though like an ant, his back is vulnerable). Said gladiator even tried suicide throughout the centuries (and got really happy at his defeat and consequent death by the hands of the Ghost Who Walks).
- TMNT (2007) has Winters, who was so happy to have his mortality back that he laughed and told the heroes how happy he was before the result of losing his immortality took place.
- Scamper the rabbit from Igor is immortal, to the extent that his body will rematerialize even if completely atomized by an explosion. He spends most of the movie attempting to kill himself in various ways, as he believes that life is meaningless and nothing matters. (He gets better, in part because Eva's obsession with acting leads him to discover his hidden passion and talent for costume design).
- Toy Story 2: Stinky Pete would rather spend the rest of his life in a museum, adored by fans, than be a child's toy. Understandable, as he was never taken off the shelf, watching toy after toy be sold and never got a chance to be played with by any children... until Woody curses Stinky Pete to be the toy of a girl who decorates her Barbies! An "interview" that used to be on the Toy Story 2 website suggested that Pete found being a child's toy was actually a pretty good life.
- Toy Story 3 is all about the toys being outgrown/forgotten by their owner, and the abandonment issues this entails. It's clear from Toy Story 3, however, that the toys enjoy only Biological Immortality; they can be burned to death.
- In the movie version of The Last Unicorn Mommy Fortuna, the old hag who captured the Unicorn, had also captured a harpy, another immortal creature. The unicorn points out that Mommy couldn't hold them forever, and the harpy will kill her for the indignity. Mommy Fortuna agrees that, yes eventually, she will slip up and the harpy will go free; but, the harpy will always remember Mommy Fortuna had captured her, forever. That is how Mommy Fortuna plans on "living forever," as a memory of the immortal harpy.
- In Over the Moon, the tragedy of the story of Chang'e revolves around this, where she was made immortal and she is separated forever from her mortal lover Houyi. Even after hundreds and hundreds of years, she still desperately tries to find a way to bring Houyi back to her.
- "Across the Highlands" by Kamelot.
- The Ayreon universe is based on living beings called Forever, who, you guessed it, live forever, but have lost the ability to feel emotions.
- "Xanadu" by Rush is about an Immortality Seeker who comes to regret getting what he sought:
A thousand years have come and gone, but time has passed me by
Stars stopped in the sky
Frozen in an everlasting view
Waiting for the world to end, weary of the night
Praying for the light
Prison of the lost Xanadu
- David Bowie - "Never Get Old".
And there's never gonna be enough money
And there's never gonna be drugs
And we're never gonna get old
And there's never gonna be enough bullets
And there's never gonna be sex
And we're never gonna get old
- The Flaming Lips' "Talkin' 'Bout the Smiling Deathporn Immortality Blues (Everyone Wants to Live Forever)":
If I've lived a thousand times before
And if I'm gonna live anymore
Always brings me down
Everyone wants to live forever
Thinkin' that it'd be a lot better...
Everyone wants to live forever
But no one ever gets it together
- "Ace of Spades" by Motörhead: You know I'm born to lose / And gambling's for fools / But that's the way I like it baby / I don't wanna live forever
- "The Curse" by Josh Ritter, about an ancient Egyptian cursed with immortality. Set to a waltz.
- The Boston indie rock band Hayley Jane and the Primates has a song called "Mabel" about a 380-something immortal who can't bring herself to love anyone because everyone she's ever cared about is dead.
- Queen just so happens to be the Trope Namer. "Who wants to live forever... when love must die?"
- "Forever Young" by Alphaville
- Van der Graaf Generator covered the subject in their song "Still Life" from the eponymous album.
- The song "Heaven" by Frazier Chorus is about how heaven would really just be boring.
- S.P.O.C.K - "Last Man on Earth".
Radiation got me as well
made me immortal in this hell
An old dream coming true
but why now when there is nothing to do?
Since then I've been searching around
going from town to town
Could it only have happened to me?
Am I doomed to be
I'm the last man on earth
- Elluka Clockworker of Evillious Chronicles expresses this viewpoint from time to time, seeing her immortality as more of curse due to her loved ones being lost to her and sees her life as being mostly about killing time.
- In the Vocaloid song, "Gothic and Loneliness" by Narushima Takashi, the protagonist has been granted immortality and a fancy mansion to stay at. After a century of living there all by herself, alongside being ridiculed and having nobody there with her, it starts taking a huge toll on her mental health. When a random boy finds his way to the mansion, let's just say it doesn't end very well.
- The Wandering Jew is a folklore character who is cursed with immortality after mocking Christ. He is consistently depicted as a decrepit old man who suffers for his sin.
- Cain, who is sometimes conflated with the Wandering Jew, may be considered an example. After killing his brother, the Lord promises that anyone who harms him (which may include Cain himself) will suffer God's wrath. He places a mark on Cain, so that everyone will know to leave him alone. Although not explicitly immortal, this guarantees that Cain will have a long time to suffer for his crime.
- In the Story of the Bamboo Cutter, an emperor is given the elixir of life by the beautiful Princess Kaguya as she departs, but refuses to drink it because if he won't be able to see said princess's beauty again, then he doesn't want to live forever.
- If you eat the flesh of a Japanese mermaid ("Ningyo"), you don't exactly live forever, however, you'll live for a very long time (and not age), and your life will suck for the same reasons. As Yao Bikuni so quite points out, this is the reason as to why the titular priestess became a priestess, as she's been widowed so many times, staying that way until committing suicide.
- Greek Mythology:
- Eos asked Zeus to grant her lover Tithonus immortality, but neglected to ask for eternal youth to go with it, and apparently Zeus was not in an especially giving mood when he granted her request. The result is that Tithonus shriveled away into increasing decrepitude. In some versions of the story, Eos eventually shut him up in a room with shining doors to babble endlessly in his senility, too weak to move; in other versions, he ultimately became a cicada, as a way to alleviate his suffering.
- When Selene asked Zeus for Endymion's immortality, she carefully considered the consequences of her wish. Learning from the mistake of Eos, she phrased her request to keep Endymion perpetually in the state which she had first met him-as a handsome youth sleeping on a hillside.
- Prometheus's punishment was to live his immortal life in torture. Every day, deadly wounds were inflicted upon him by an eagle sent to eat his liver. Every night, he would regenerate and heal to await the next assault from the bird. Subverted in some versions of the myth, where Hercules eventually passes by and, seeing Prometheus's suffering, kills the eagle and frees Prometheus.
- In Christianity, this is considered to have been the fate of all humanity, if it weren't for the existence of Jesus Christ. For those in Hell, it's still felt to be their fate by traditionalists.
- This is the fate of Stingy Jack (AKA Jack o' Lantern). He was an evil man who tricked the Devil into being trapped in a tree by putting a holy symbol on the trunk whilst the Devil was in the tree. Jack would only allow the Devil down if he promised never to bring Jack into Hell. The Devil agreed. However, since Jack was still too selfish and wicked to get into Heaven, he had nowhere to go after he died. The Devil gave him an ember from the fires of Hell to light his way, which Jack kept in a hollowed-out turnip (since pumpkins were more plentiful and easier to carve in the New World, in later versions of the story they became the vessel in which the ember was kept). Jack is now cursed to wander forever, carrying his lantern, a Jack-o-Lantern.
- Ashwatthama of the Mahabharata was cursed with immortality by Krishna after brutally slaughtering the Pandava and using a Brahmastra on the womb of their pregnant queen. Not only was he made immortal, he was also afflicted with diseases, ulcers, and wounds that would not heal for 3,000 years.
- The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home from Welcome to Night Vale holds this sentiment.
Nothing ever really happens to me. I am completely safe from harm, and this is a great burden... I think that one day, this world will simply talk itself to death, and I will be left to flit about in the void. I will be the Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives Nowhere.
- In The Adventure Zone: Balance, the Animus Bell tries to tempt Magnus with eternal life and is immediately shut down, because dying for him means reuniting with his dead wife Julia, to the point that early in the adventure he was a borderline Death Seeker who longed to go out in a blaze of glory.
Animus Bell: How would you like to live forever?
Magnus: I'd hate it. Shut the fuck up.
- In Seasons of Fear happens to Sebastian Grayle, who is given immortality by the Nimon in 305. He ends up outliving 12 wives, becoming more bitter and evil over the years, and hating the Doctor more for stopping his plans to help his Masters invade. He hopes for a more ethereal immortality when his Masters invade the Earth. When he goes back in time from 1806 to just before he made the deal with the Nimon, this leads to Future Me Scares Me, as his past self kills him.
- The Makropulos Affair, a play written by Czech playwright Karel Capek and subsequently adapted into an opera by Leos Janacek, concerns a woman who has been granted 300 years of life through a magic potion, with an option for renewal. She finds that such a long life is an ordeal that leaves her exhausted and numb to human emotions. She decides that death is better.
- An Ordinary Wonder by Russian Yevgenii Shvarts. There is a wizard in the play, who tells his wife near the end: "But alas, I am immortal, so I will spend the rest of eternity missing you."
- Tanz der Vampire:
"Eternity is permanent boredom
- "Die Unstillbare Gier" ("The Insatiable Greed") is essentially Von Krolock saying, "Don't live forever, you'll kill everyone you love." It includes recitations of dates from 300 years back, lamenting how he still can't forgive himself for killing people way back then.
- "Ewigkeit" ("Eternity") is basically the vampire guests of the ball saying that eternity sucks.
A cheerless cycle with neither beginning, nor end
For all the time the same is repeated from the start
No exultation, no horror
Only the boring
- Tsugumi of Ever17 has the Curé Virus. Overall, it's a pretty sweet deal, with her having stopped aging at 17, total immunity to illness, a healing factor, and the ability to see in the dark via infrared vision. The downside is that her regeneration and agelessness are because the Virus has turned her body into a form of cancer cell - meaning she's incredibly weak to sunlight. She was first infected when she was 12, and being a carrier of a new disease, was taken to a place she didn't even know to be perpetually experimented on. When told that that the suffering she's been through is okay because living is beautiful on its own, she's so jaded that she responds by crushing her pet hamster (also infected with immortality) to a bloody pulp, asking if that was okay to do, just because it recovered. As a cherry on top, she has to give up her children for adoption because the medical company is still tracking her down after she escaped experimentation. While she does manage to find a reason to live in her family, the game implies she'll outlive her children one day.
- Monster Prom: Polly, the Hard-Drinking Party Girl ghost wonders about this briefly, on the sense that she fears that she'll someday do everything and have nothing left to do, since she'll likely live forever.
- Brought up in the visual novel Songs of Araiah, where it is mentioned that most magicians (who can be immortal) revoke their own immortality after having lived about a thousand years. In addition, immortality works by "freezing" the state that the body is in, meaning that immortals do not age, women can not have children, and their bodies will get neither better nor worse (for example, the lead female, Melissa, will always have to wear glasses, despite the existence of spells which could fix her vision). Outliving loved ones is a minor issue, as a magician can grant immortality to anybody.
- Rune from Frozen Essence constantly regenerates and cannot die due to becoming the Life Hex Monument many years ago, and his life simply consists of a neverending cycle of being imprisoned and the painful process of charging the Life Sphere. It's such a miserable existence that he stops caring about anything anymore. In the True End he succeeds in finally being able to rest in peace with a smile on his face.
- Diego in Havenfall Is for Lovers is a 500-year-old vampire. For the most part he makes the best of his ageless existence, but when the subject of whether or not he'd turn his love interest, he expresses some very strong opinions on the subject.
Diego: There's a reason there are so many cautionary tales about eternal life.
- RWBY: The World of Remnant has been the arena for a secret, ancient war between Ozpin and Salem. Both of them are immortal, and both for different reasons. However, the one thing they have in common is that their immortality is treated as a curse rather than a blessing. In ancient times, Salem incurred the wrath of the gods by trying to resurrect Ozma, a love she lost to sickness. Cursed with Complete Immortality to learn the importance of life and death, it was impossible for her to die and join him in the afterlife, so she tried to turn humanity against the gods in revenge. To give humanity one single chance at redemption, the God of Light resurrected Ozma with the mission to constantly reincarnate into the body of a living man or boy to guide humanity towards peace and harmony; the flaw in the mission is that Salem was corrupted by the God of Darkness's pools of annihilation and destruction, and is trying to divide and destroy humanity. As long as Salem exists, Ozma cannot save humanity. Unable to die or defeat the other, they are locked together in an eternal war for the fate humanity, their love long since lost to grief, despair and rage. In "War", Ozpin expresses the opinion that Salem's end goal is to destroy the entire world in the hope that it will break her curse and finally let her die.
- In the web series True Tail, there is a phoenix wizard named Kanikus, who wants to find a way to become mortal, because he has outlived all of his friends for millions of years.
- A Dorkly Originals short pokes on Tails' ability to not die, eventually believing himself to be blessed... until a full century after everyone he knows is dead and tries to end his life. He revives again and screams a Big "NO!"
- A vlog in a series on Required Secondary Powers found here describes how Immortality can lead to Body Horror, We Are as Mayflies, And I Must Scream and multiple Fates Worse Than Death.
- While Iriana in Ilivais X may be suicidal for reasons unrelated to immortality, the result is the same. She wants to die, but can't no matter how hard she tries or how much she frappes herself.
- SCP Foundation:
- The old SCP-910, which makes people essentially immortal. However, they continue to age well past the point where their body would ordinarily shut down and any wound, no matter how minor, never heals. Imagine every nick from shaving, every papercut, every bruise and scrap, raw and hurting for the rest of your life. Now imagine that life never ends.
- Same goes for SCP-138, who is in constant agony from his wounds.
- Thanks to his being bound to SCP-963, Dr. Bright can't actually die. Whenever he sleeps, he dreams about the deaths of every body he's inhabited, and when 963 is without a host, he is haunted by the minds of the people he's overwritten. When a camera that reveals its subjects' greatest desire was used to photograph Bright, it produced a photo of Bright's gravestone, with the epitaph "Jack Bright, Resting at Last."
- SCP-1520 is a 16th century Buddhist monk who attempted to die undergoing a self-mummification process to achieve Buddhahood, but failed and has been trapped in a shrivelled, mummified corpse for over four centuries. Unusual for this trope, the monk doesn't mind exactly, aside from some mild disappointment that he has not achieved enlightenment. He's communicated exactly once with the Foundation, belaying a message meant for a former lover (which was delivered to said lover's descendant under the guise of an unearthed family document) presumably as part of shedding himself of any remaining worldly attachments, and has made no further attempts at communication.
- SCP-1440 is a kind old man who beat Death at cards, and cannot die. He might be able to enjoy it if Death wasn't such a Sore Loser and cursed him to be a Walking Wasteland who kills/destroys all humans and things made by humans that get close to him, meaning he can do nothing but wander the Earth alone forever. He does at least get a happy ending in Quiet Days.
- The End of Death canon takes place in a timeline where the concept of death was killed making it impossible for anything with a brain to die. This does not grant indestructibility, regeneration, or youth. Brains continue to function no matter how badly damaged they are or how much the body decays, or even if they are removed from the body entirely. Many people resort to taking drugs that cause permanent sleep as a substitute for suicide.
- On everything2 user 'santo' treats us with Immortality Blows. a first person, tongue-in-cheek, exploration of this trope to a greater degree than most.
- Cracked's 5 Reasons Immortality Would be Worse than Death.
- Tales of MU has one of the few cases of immortal elves who fit this trope instead of Living Forever Is Awesome. Many elves have spoken at their own funerals, and "taking elven leave" is a dwarf euphemism for suicide.
- The superhero guide How to Hero has an entry on Old Immortals who wish they could die and tips on how to do just that.
- Tumblr user "intergalactic-dorks" provides a more lighthearted take on this; according to them, being immortal would suck because you would always be haunted by embarrassing things you did in the past.
- In Tall Tales, the character Tadzio is cursed with immortality after going back on a deal with a demon.
Okay, seriously, PUT THAT HAND DOWN.