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A very basic premise - Alice is doomed, and she knows it. Whether it's due to a prophecy, a Curse, a disease or something Time Travel related, it doesn't matter. What matters is that in the near future, she will die, and there is nothing she can do about it. Alternatively, Bob knows that Alice is doomed, but he also knows he can do nothing to save her.

Either way, cue misery and angsting. The character may also go through the Five Stages of Grief.

Of course, this does not mean that Alice cannot be saved in the end - there just needs to be a period during which it seems like she is doomed.

The seeming inevitability of a character's death can be heartbreaking, although if taken too far, it may come across as Deus Angst Machina.

See also Secretly Dying, Like You Were Dying, Someone Has to Die, The Last Dance, Last Day to Live, I Will Only Slow You Down, and Who Dunnit to Me?.

Not to be confused with You Have No Chance to Survive, which is when the antagonist simply says "Your days are numbered!" ... or something similar, as a threat. Unless Alice is actually doomed, the statement in itself is that, not this.

NOTE: This is possibly a death trope, and it may include spoilers. Especially if this isn't revealed until later in the media.

Examples of Your Days Are Numbered include:


  • At the end of Ayashi no Ceres, it's revealed that Tooya has only a year or two left to live. Both Tooya and Aya know it, hence the scene where Tooya begs Yuuhi to take care of Aya and their baby when he kicks the bucket.
  • Bokurano. The cast soon learn that this is true for the whole lot of them as Zearth's pilots; a lottery picks out who'll be next, and the time is decided randomly. The main story is arguably to see how each of the characters deal with this knowledge, in light of their own lives.
  • In Busou Renkin, when Kazuki becomes a victor he has six weeks before the change becomes permanent. He vows to kill himself before his Super-Powered Evil Side becomes permanent.
  • In Chrono Crusade, Rosette made a contract with Chrono, a demon, saying that she will give him the ability to use his powers at the cost of her own lifespan. The sign of their contract is a watch Rosette wears around her neck, which literally counts down the time she has left to the very minute.
    • Also, it's revealed in flashbacks that Mary Magdalene had seen visions from her childhood that she would be killed by someone named Chrono. Once she meets him, she's well aware that it means she will soon die by his hand, but willingly leaves with him anyway, believing that You Can't Fight Fate.
  • The only power of Oruha in Clover is to know the exact moment she will die. And the readers know too, if they started reading the volumes in order.
  • In recent chapters of the newly revived manga D.N.Angel, Satoshi has told Daisuke that all members of the Hikari family die young, and he believes he's near his own death.
  • Due to the incredible strain of keeping the family in some sort of order, the heads of the Sohma family in Fruits Basket never live past thirty. That's what, in fact, made Akito's father Akira an Ill Boy... and ultimately killed him. Akito shows signs of illness in the anime and that's her Freudian Excuse, but in the manga her bad health seems to come more from deep seated psychological problems, courtesy of her Manipulative Bitch mother.
  • In G Gundam, the siblings from Neo Mexico Gina and Chico Rodriguez already know that Ill Girl Gina's Soap Opera Disease is incurable and that she's almost done with her life. Chico becomes the Neo-Mexican fighter not to get a miracle cure, but to bring her to Earth and give her a chance to die peacefully. Thanks to Domon and Rain, they get it.
  • In Kanon, the foxes on the hill overlooking the town can use a miracle to become human, but they must give up their memories and their life to do so, meaning they won't live very long after their miracle occurs, so they have to live their remaining life to the fullest while they can.
  • The conceit of Mahoromatic, where the protagonist is a gynoid with limited battery life remaining. Each segment of the anime and manga ends with how many days she has left to live.
    • This gets parodied in Disgaea 3 with the hours it's left before Almaz becomes a demon. No such thing ever happens.
  • The 'players' in Mirai Nikki have what is known as a BAD END: When their future-revealing diaries get an entry that reveals when they'll die, death is all but certain to occur at that point. There is a chance to Screw Destiny involved and the main character has managed to do this several times, in no small part due to his Stalker with a Crush's device, which gives fine-detail information about the how as regards to him.
    • Also, it turns out that the reason for the game is that the god of that world's days are numbered, and the world will end if that happens before he finds a successor. Why that issue needs to be solved with a no holds barred Battle Royale is anyone's guess, but God Is Evil in this series.
    • Of noteworthy mention (and for reasons unrelated to her health) is Yuno. Her days are numbered because she essentially volunteers to die at the game's end so that Yuki can become a god.
  • Ashitaka spends most of Princess Mononoke with a curse on his arm that is slowly spreading until it will kill him. When the Forest Spirit gets its head back, Ashitaka, San and the villagers with leprosy are cured.
  • Xerxes Break in Pandora Hearts. His body is slowly breaking down from the strain of being Mad Hatter's contractor. Mostly because it's the second time he's been a contractor. The first time was an illegal contract.
  • Macross Frontier has this come to Sheryl Nome late in the series, and it's heartbreaking, especially how it ties into Break the Cutie and Break the Haughty. Luckily for her, Ranka manages to move her infection to a less lethal place in Sheryl's body and saves her life..
  • Grave of the Fireflies has a scene in which the brother and sister who serve as protagonists capture a large number of fireflies and keep them nearby overnight. The next morning, all the fireflies are dead. Given the number of people who are killed by bombs or starvation in the movie, as well as its connection to the title, this scene is obviously meant to represent something beyond dead insects.
  • In Inuyasha, Miroku's Wind Tunnel is a curse inherited from his father which dooms him to an early death unless the source of the original curse, Naraku, is killed. After an incident in which he absorbs massive amounts of toxic miasma trying to take Naraku out so that Kohaku won't have to be sacrificed, the time frame of Miroku's impending death moves up from "sometime in the nebulous future" to "any day now."
  • The Reveal of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, magical girls realizing the fact that an overused and darken Soul Gem caused from depression and sadness will turn themselves into the very monsters tribe they're hunting. No Puella Magi can escape this fate, and there's no way to change the rule, well, except one.
  • Motorball champion Jashugan in Gunnm. The modifications that make him the elite athlete/fighter that he is are killing him, but he'd rather go down defending his title than retiring.

Comic Books

  • This is the basis for All-Star Superman. With only a year to live due to solar radiation poisoning, Superman decides to get his last few odds and ends in order, finish off those last few bad guys, finally open up fully to Lois and maybe give Lex Luthor one last thrashing.
  • This is part of the plot of Young Liars. In the first chapter, the reader learns that Sadie, one of the main characters, survives a gunshot wound to the head, but is told by the doctor that sooner or later, she will die due to the bullet slowly migrating through the skull.
  • Slightly subverted in Transmetropolitan. Spider Jerusalem learns that his mind is decaying as a result of a buildup of a certain dangerous nanotechnology in his brain--the effects are similar to Alzheimer's Disease. He is given an amount of time before he degenerates to a state of helplessness, but instead of wallowing in misery or angst, he takes a moment to feel the fear and grief, then he collects himself and tells his assistants that... well:

 Channon: Spider... what're you going to do? You might not be able to write a year from now. Or anything.

Spider: *magnificent bastard grin* So we've got a deadline. We can do deadlines.

    • And in a final subversion he turns out to be part of the one percent of victims to recover, though he keeps this a secret.
  • This is the fundamental concept of Strikeforce Morituri, where the heroes gain super-powers (to fight off an Alien Invasion) via a process that kills them inside of a year. Notably highlighted when they are reprimanded for attacking the aliens without authorization; in response, Ruth "Toxyn" Mastorakis administers a poison to her teammates, then explains it as the desperation the Morituri feel every moment they are kept away from active duty.
  • Once perpetrated on X Man - essentially, there was something in his genes that would lead to his death in the near-future. Warren Ellis, who wrote subsequent issues of the comic, referred to it as the "Dead At 21 TV Plot Engine" and advocated getting rid of it as fast as possible.
  • The Batman Dailies once featured a story about a man with 10 days left to live. Oh and he was getting married when he found out about it.


  • The replicants in Blade Runner have returned to Earth to find away to extend their four-year lifespan, but it is in vain.
  • The end of the second Death Note movie, and the L spinoff movie, relies on this.
  • Connor and Heather in Highlander, and all immortal/mortal love stories since, as the character says: "You are all dying. Twenty years, six months, what's the difference?"
  • The main character of Joe Versus the Volcano is told by the doctor that he's got X days to live, and then some rich guy offers to let him live the rest of his life (what little there is) in luxury, if he will, in return, jump into a volcano and thus mollify some volcano-god-type who's been getting in the way of his Tropical Island mining project. This is actually a subversion, since in the end it turns out that the doctor had been bribed by the rich guy, and had lied to Joe so that the guy could get the human sacrifice he needed.
  • In the fantasy movie Krull, the cyclopes were beings with two eyes, but they bartered away their second eye to The Beast in order to see the future. The Beast instead tricked them, and the only future they can see is the time of their own death.
  • This trope is the premise (and sometimes the whole plot) of many romance movies - examples include Autumn in New York, Sweet November, etc...
    • and, of course, the eponymous Love Story.
  • This trope is often the premise of certain dramas where the main character either has to accomplish some particular thing or set of things before they die (usually this requires not letting other people know that they're going to die), as in Ikiru or My Life Without Me.
  • Anyone who sees The Ring is slated to die in seven days.

 Cindy: Hello?

Tabitha: [indistinct] Seven days.

Cindy: What? Willie Mays?

Tabitha: [indistinct] Seven days.

Cindy: Who's gay? Hello?

Tabitha: [indistinct] Seven days.

Cindy: What?

Tabitha: Can you hear me now?

Cindy: Kind of.

Tabitha: Can you hear me now?

Cindy: Yes. Perfect.

Tabitha: Seven days.

Cindy: Seven days. Oh, my God. I'm gonna die next Monday?

Tabitha: Yes. No. Wait. Monday. That would be seven business days. This is seven days starting now.

Cindy: So seven days to this very hour? My watch broke. How am I gonna know the exact hour?

Tabitha: Forget hours. This day seven days from now.

Cindy: But there's a holiday coming up. Do you count the holiday?

Tabitha: Well, that depends. What holiday?

Cindy: Martin Luther King Day.

Tabitha: Then no.

Cindy: Why not? Everybody at work is taking it off.

Tabitha: Jesus Christ, lady. I'm giving you seven friggin' days. I can come over now and kill the shit out of you if you'd rather have that.

  • "Little did he know that it would lead to his imminent demise."
  • Satine in Moulin Rouge.
  • Pretty anyone who ever hears "Hi, I'm Chucky! Wanna play?" or something similar.
  • Bond villain Renard from The World Is Not Enough is a terrorist because he's hopelessly in love with Elektra King and he's got a bullet lodged in his brain that's migrating.
  • Drag Me to Hell - Allison is gypsy-cursed to have her soul dragged to hell in three days.
  • Night of the Demon - Cult leader Julian Carswell informs Dr. Holden (who is seeking to publicly debunk him) his death will fall on a specific date, thanks to a curse he's cast.
  • In Grand Hotel, Otto Kringelein, a meek accountant, after discovering that he has a terminal illness, spends all the money he saved to spend the end of his life in luxury in the eponymous hotel.
  • In Ikiru, Kanji Watanabe learns he has fatal stomach cancer, and spends his last days trying to find meaning in his formerly pointless life.
  • Frank must deal with a Who Dunnit to Me? situation in this way in DOA.
  • The Shootist is about an ageing gunfighter (played by John Wayne) who discovers he's dying of cancer at the dawn of the 20th century and has only weeks to live. Eerily, after making the film Wayne was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died, making The Shootist his last picture.
  • The Black Comedy The End features Burt Reynolds as a man who begins a series of hilariously unsuccessful suicide attempts after discovering he's got a terminal disease.
  • The entire premise of Logan's Run, a dystopian future Sci-Fi in which the population issue is addressed by mandating that everyone dies on reaching the age of 30.


  • The Trope Namer is The Book of Daniel, in a sequence that gives us three common phrases. "The Writing On The Wall" appears to a Babylonian king, specifically the words MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN. This is simply a list of weights and measures, but is translated as a metaphor: "You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting, Your Days Are Numbered, and your kingdom shall be divided by the Medes and the Persians".
    • The Bible also makes mention of how short and insignificant human life is in comparison to the rest of the universe. Your measly life of 80 odd years, maybe a hundred if you are lucky? It is likened onto a vapor or smoke, one moment it is there and the next it is gone as it is swept away by the wind. God who has existed since the beginning of the creation of the universe sees all of your lives, all of your struggles and all of your triumphs as if they were blinks of his all-seeing eyes, they end in mere moments. The message is clear, it is humbling that an immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing God cares enough about you that he intervenes in our lives and how important it is that we take advantage of the days that are given to us.
  • It takes Gilgamesh a long time to accept that he has to die, but once he does, life somehow gets better for him.
  • Elizabeth aka Beth realizes her days are numbered in Little Women Part Second and spends her last year in a room that her family have turned into a little corner of paradise for her before the inevitable Tear Jerker death scene.
  • Played with in Harry Potter with Dumbledore, though you don't find out until the next book.
    • Also with Harry himself.
  • Subverted in the Discworld series, where the anthropomorphic personification of Death has an hourglass for every living being on the Disc, counting down accurately to their death... except the wizard Rincewind, whose personal timeline is so messed up at this point that not even Death knows when he'll die.
    • Wizards and Witches also have pre-emptive knowledge of when they're going to die, and thus tend to use this knowledge to put their affairs in order. Witches use it to make sure a replacement is found, bequeathing her personal items, making sure a grave is dug, and so on, while Wizards tend to commit credit fraud and drink themselves into a stupor. Both sides like to throw a good last party with their friends/colleagues as well.
    • Of course, the lifetimers are physical objects, and rather fragile at that. Several are destroyed and/or fall to the ground and smash during the course of Death's fight with Mort, which makes the nearest convenient death occur instantly (although one man who almost dies of falling is caught on a tree branch because one of the other characters catches his lifetimer).
    • Also, at least one being on the Disc can ignore lifetimers at will - Death himself. In addition to the old trick of simply not collecting the dead in question, at one point Death turns over Mort's lifetimer, giving him extra time.
      • But Death is specifically not supposed to do that, leading to a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming in Hogfather, when it's time for The Little Match Girl to die in a cold, dark alley, and Death is having to spend the night pretending to be the Hogfather.

 Albert: You ain't really allowed to do that.

Death: The Hogfather can. The Hogfather gives presents. There's no better present than a future.

    • Even Death has a lifetimer - it's huge, ornate, and completely empty. Read into this what you will.
      • In all fairness, to extend the metaphor, it's in fairly large print.
    • There are a few other beings in the Discworld not subject to death. Basically, any Anthropomorphic Personification (and sometimes heirs to such) is a peer of Death. Also, anything anything above him, like the Auditors, plays by a different set of rules.
  • In And Then There Were None, the culprit, Lawrence John Wargrave, was dying anyway.
  • Most of the cast gets this treatment in The Book Thief. Well, technically all of them are under this trope (see Real Life), since Death is the narrator, but we also know most of them die young.
  • Cinderpelt in Warrior Cats is told she's going to die by StarClan as a Secret Test of Character. She passes and is reincarnated as one of the newborn kits she died protecting.
  • Taken literally in Animorphs when the last of the Arn, who are extremely adept in biology, is capable of pinpointing to the exact day how long he expects himself to live. As the Animorphs don't trust the Arn, Ax gives the subtle threat that "biology isn't the only factor".
  • In "The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin, an 18-year-old girl sneaks onto a space shuttle on a lark. But the ship doesn't have enough fuel to land with her on board. She can go out the airlock involuntarily, or voluntarily, or the ship will crash. The universe doesn't care which. Published in 1954, the story subverted the usual notion in Golden Age science fiction that all problems could solved through the power of Science.
  • Terry Brooks played with this trope in The Wishsong of Shannara. Bremen informs Allanon that if he continues with the quest the heroes are on, he will not live to see its end. Bremen also informs him what it will be that kills him and why it must happen. Allanon isn't thrilled with this news and, briefly, does try to avoid a confrontation with his future killer. When he accepts his death is inevitable and absolutely necessary, he chooses to Face Death with Dignity thus ensuring that the Cycle of Magic can come to a close once the quest is completed.
  • Whomever watches the cursed videotape in The Ring (the original book as well as the movies) will die in seven days unless they figure out how to break the curse. Likewise Samara/Sadako probably figured that being stuck at the bottom of a well boded ill for her chances of survival.

Live Action TV

  • The main premise of the obscure MTV series Dead At 21, in which the fugitive victim of a government experiment has one year to keep intelligence-boosting microchips from burning out his brain.
  • In the Heroes episode "Seven Minutes to Midnight", a waitress named Charlie is murdered in the diner in which she worked. In a later episode in that season, "Six Months Ago", Hiro travels back in time to prevent Charlie's death, only to find out that she has a blood clot in her brain that will kill her soon, no matter what.
    • And then, in a surprising twist in the FAR later "Once Upon a Time in Texas", Hiro returns to the past again, crosses his own timeline, and saves her and removes the clot in a particularly risky trade by effectively telling still morally-confused Sylar that he is destined to be a villain. Hiro ends up telling him that by the time he's come back, Sylar had already died alone. He managed to prevent Charlie's doom and (unknowingly mis)inform Sylar of his own.
  • Dean on Supernatural sold his soul to a demon in exchange for Sam returning to life and was given only one year until the contract came up and he died.
  • Babylon 5: After dying in a Heroic Sacrifice and being brought back by a Sufficiently Advanced Alien, Sheridan is given twenty years to live, implied to be a side-effect of his artificial restoration.
  • In the NCIS episode "Dead Man Walking," Ziva becomes very close to Lt. Roy Sanders while he is dying of radiation poisoning, causing her considerable distress.
    • Jenny as well.
  • Charlie and Locke from Lost both get in this situation, albeit differently. Charlie nearly all of Season 3 with the knowledge that he's doomed due to Desmond's prophetic visions, while John Locke is explicitly told by Richard that he's going to have to die (which we already knew he was dead, as of the end of season 4, which is one of the mysteries of season 5. Locke is resurrected. Except he isn't.
  • A minor character in season seven of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had future-seeing powers and knew exactly when she was going to die (a few days from when she was introduced, at age 16). A whole episode revolved around Buffy and the gang trying to protect her while convincing her that she might live. They were wrong.
    • Buffy herself had the prophecy in the Season One finale. She died, but it didn't stick.
  • From Flash Forward 2009, Demetri didn't have a flash forward, making him fear that he won't live up until those six months.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor's tenth incarnation got a lot more warning about his impending death than the previous ones, thanks to the "knock four times" prophecy.
    • The Fourth also got a preview in the form of The Watcher.
    • On the other side of this trope, the Sixth Doctor spends about an episode of "The Two Doctors" taking unnecessary risks and generally moping about when he believes he is about to be erased from existence due to a time paradox of some sort.
    • Eleven was told this in the 2011 series, with the added complication of his companions watching his future self being killed. He got out of it, naturally, but decided to let much of the universe think he hadn't, as his Memetic Badass reputation was becoming more of a hindrance than help.
    • Played straight, with a literal timer counting the days, in A Christmas Carol.
  • Yui in Kamen Rider Ryuki is fated to disappear on her 20th birthday.
    • The Orphenochs in Kamen Rider Faiz are doomed to short lives, including The Hero Takumi. At the end of the show he has surgery in the hope of prolonging his lifespan, but it is implied that he will not survive long. Kaidou, the only other surviving Orphenoch on the heroes' side, has not had the procedure and is also doomed.
  • Mahou Sentai Magiranger had the Hades Beast Skeleton who would curse its victims to vanish after one week. Later, after Big Bad N Ma fully revives, we are told that there would only be three days left before he wiped out all life in existence.
    • In Mirai Sentai Timeranger, Ayase is terminally ill with "Osiris Syndrome" and has about a year left to live. Due to changes in the timeline, he is able to be cured at the end of the series.
  • The premise of Breaking Bad is that after a chemistry teacher learns that he has lung cancer, he starts cooking crystal meth to secure his family's financial future before he dies.
  • One Liter of Tears has the protagonist Aya dying of Spino Cerebellar Ataxia.
  • Used in Highlander, when the immortal Methos falls in love with terminally ill Alexa Bond and tries to cure her by finding the Methuselah stone.


  • The Patient in The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance. This is particularly apparent in "Dead!", "Cancer" and "Sleep".
  • "I'm still young but I know my days are numbered" is the opening line to the Crash Test Dummies "Won't you come to my funeral"

Real Life

  • You and everyone else who is currently alive is doomed to die someday. You might be able to delay the day of your death, but there is no way to avoid it. Entropy will always win. This applied to everyone who is now dead as well.
    • Blatant lies. It's only statistically probable that we'll all die!
    • So make it count.
  • Those involved in networking know that packets have a variable set that is decremented when it hits each point, designed to keep packets from endlessly roaming the Internets like lost souls. What's this value called? Time To Live. It dies at 0, naturally.
  • Dying from real life radiation poisoning can fit this trope. If you receive a potentially lethal dosage, you'll initially get very sick (headache, vomiting, fever), but then apparently recover, usually within 48 hours. However, this only lasts for a time and, after a latent period where you feel mostly fine, your condition will suddenly deteriorate with symptoms such as hemorrhaging, internal bleeding, and your immune system collapsing. The kicker is that the latent period can last up to a month, and while there are treatments that can help, the mortality rate (depending on dosage) is still very high. If you receive a dosage between 2 and 6 grays (and you're diagnosed), you'll be spending between a week and a month knowing that while you're fine now, you won't be soon, and that even with treatment there's up to 50% chance you'll die. Dosages higher than this have shorter latent periods and quickly move towards 100% mortality rate.

Video Games

  • The video game Persona 3 plays this very straight and extraordinarily well with a pair of characters. One of them, the Sun Arcana Social Link character Akanari is doomed to die of a genetic disease, and uses your character and a short story he is writing to come to terms. It is implied, and later proven by the Social Link post-script ending, that he died the very day he gave you his notebook, and his mother comes to speak to you on his twentieth birthday. The other character is Ryoji, a transfer student who appears in the last few months of the storyline to give you the opportunity to kill him and live in ignorance until The End of the World as We Know It. He is doomed regardless, but wishes you "good tidings in the New Year" if you spare him, hoping against hope that you manage to somehow beat Nyx.
    • Also notable is Chidori of Strega, who says that she has known the day she would die for a long time. She ultimately ends up giving her life to save Junpei after he is shot and nearly killed by Takaya. In the Expansion Pack Persona 3: FES, however, it's possible to bring her back.
    • Of course, the rest of Strega also has only a short time to live; as the products and sole survivors of an attempt to artificially induce the Persona ability into a human, they know their days are marked and live life like every day will be their last. It's also what prompts them to oppose SEES and ultimately become Nietzsche Wannabes when the true nature of the Fall comes about.
    • Heck, Persona 3 has so many examples it's not even funny. There's also Shinjiro Aragaki, who knows he's only got a limited amount of time left to live because of the adverse affects of the Persona suppressants he's taking. He ultimately decides to use his last days to give Ken Amada, whose mother he accidentally killed two years ago, a chance to settle accounts with him.
      • In fact, during the final act of the game, when you know exactly when and how the world is going to end, the entire main cast probably qualifies. For awhile, anyway.
      • Just to be even more clear, the first thing the player does in game is sign a deal in which the player is "given one year." It's not exactly clear what this year refers to, and many people understand that it means "a schoolyear." Even the character who presents this contract is surprised by the ultimate outcome. But this time limit keeps hanging over the player's head throughout the course of the year...
  • In Devil Survivor, everyone who wields a demon-summoning device can see exactly how many days are left for everyone trapped in Tokyo. Most of the numbers are quite low, and nobody inside Tokyo has more than a week at maximum, meaning it's up to you to find a way to change the future.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 4, Snake finds out that, due to accelerated ageing programmed into his genes from birth, he's got around 6 months left to live. Worse yet, the FOXDIE virus he was injected with at Shadow Moses, 9 years earlier, has started to mutate, and will turn him into a walking, pandemic bio-weapon within 'bout 3 months. Good motivation for One Last Mission, huh? And no pesky worrying about an exit-strategy...
    • Considering what Snake has lived through by the end of the game, including the absolutely soul-wrenching microwave corridor, old age is really the only thing that will stop him. And even that's debatable, since, according to a very skilled doctor, he should be dead before the game even begins. So his days might be numbered, but that number passed a while ago, and he's still going.
  • According to Baron Praxis in Jak II: Renegade, Jak's Dark Eco powers will eventually kill him. Jak doesn't care, because his main objective at that stage in his life is to hurl Praxis' regime to the ground, with Praxis himself preferably on fire. Despite this, he doesn't actually die in the end, because a Precursor is kind enough to counterbalance the Dark Eco effects somehow.
  • Lau Chan of the Virtua Fighter series has a rare illness that will eventually kill him. Still, he keeps entering fighting tournaments in search of a successor to his fighting style.
  • Mana Khemia Alchemists of Al Revis has a textbook example with Jessica, without the angsting part. At least until a Faking the Dead scene orchestrated by her friends showed her the truth. One of the few, serious moments during the game's side quests.
  • In Tales of Symphonia, for Colette to successfully complete the journey of the Chosen, she needs to ultimately sacrifice her own life.
  • In Tales of the Abyss, After Luke's heroic sacrifice at the Tower of Rem leaves him alive, he finds this out when he goes to the doctor.
  • Shows up in Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor in impressive form. One of the functions of the COMP provides you with an uplink to the Laplace system, showing a "Death Clock" over the heads of people who have less than ten days to live. Most of Tokyo reads 7 days remaining. Your initial party reads 1, and that's during the prologue; you spend a lot of the game trying to get that number to increase.
    • It's interesting in that merely reading the Laplace Mail, a prediction of the future, can change the days you have remaining. For instance, the reason you start with one day is because you read a prediction where 3 people are killed in a specific place. So of course, you go and try and stop it. Turns out the 3 people who died are the ones who went to prevent it.
      • Actually, in that case, they wander into that one without even realizing it. The real example would be (iirc) the fight with Beldr, which is predicted to kill 50 people. So, let's go stop him! Wait, why's everyone calling him Beldr the IMMORTAL!? Oops...
  • This is the cause of Kuze Shuuichi's angst in Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two.; he has a rare heart disease that no one knows how to treat.
  • In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, all four bounty hunters' bodies start producing phazon (Phazon is highly toxic). Eventually, Samus has to kill the other three bounty hunters, who had been corrupted by phazon. The only reason Samus doesn't get corrupted is that she destroys a load-bearing-boss on Phaaze, the source of all phazon, destroying the planet, which causes phazon to cease to exist. It makes sense in context.
  • Overlord Zetta of Makai Kingdom falls under The One's curse and is doomed to die in 3 days. It wasn't really The One, just a random walking Corn guy.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Drell Assassin Thane Krios is dying from a disease, which he makes clear to Shepard. He's trying to spend his last days making the world a better place and in his personal mission attempting to save his son from following his footsteps.
    • Note that this has no effect on the game whatsoever. It may become an issue in the third game, but Thane specifically says that while he's doomed to die, it isn't any time specifically soon.
      • He specifies that he has less than a year to live. Not that that really means anything, given that there's no tracking of time in the game. Could be a plot point in Mass Effect 3, though.
      • When the third game (which takes place half a year after the second) actually rolls around, he claims that he was given three months to live... nine months ago. In the game, he does in fact die, but from Kai Leng's sword through the chest, not from his disease.
  • Breath of Fire 5 uses this as a game mechanic. Your character embarks on a quest to make it to the surface - if it even exists - before his dragon counter reaches 100%. Once that happens, the dragon inhabiting him will take over and he will die. As you play through the game, the very act of walking will raise the counter by .01% every few seconds (and running will raise it faster than that.) Using various attacks in battle raise it up further and faster. If you don't play the game smart, you won't be able to finish it. At least, on your first try.
    • Just to make sure the player doesn't look up the shortest path possible, the game has slight variations every time you play it.
  • Dead Rising gives you 20 hours before you turn into a zombie after the initial 72 hours of the storymode pass by.
  • Takenaka Hanbei from Sengoku Basara suffers from tuberculosis, which in those days had no cure. He decides to make the most of his time left by doing everything in his power to make his master Hideyoshi ruler of Japan. He dies shortly before the events of the third game.
  • The World Ends With You. Basically, one of the main premises of the game is that, well, the character themselves are in a game of sorts. The game lasts for a total of one week, and every day, each "Player" gets a text message with a mission for the day, after which a timer immediately (and painfully) appears on their hand. If none of the Players finish the mission before the timer runs out, the Game Master for the week officially wins, and all of the players are "Erased". However, it only takes a single pair of players (they all come in pairs, as part of the First Day's mission is to find a partner) to win for everyone to get a pass for the day. It's not always you.
  • Professor Layton and the Unwound Future reveals a heartbreaking twist at the end; that Claire, who was transported into the future by the experimental time machine, will very soon be whisked away back to milliseconds before the explosion that was thought to have killed her, and there's nothing anyone can do, lest they potentially cause a time paradox. Unfortunately, Dmitri tries to save her, kidnapping scientists to work on a time machine.
  • In Final Fantasy IX, it is heavily implied that the Black Mage golems have a set expiration date. As does Kuja.
  • In Final Fantasy XIII you have L'Cie brands. Once branded, a L'cie only has a certain amount of time to complete their given focus before they turn into a Cei'th corpse (starting out as a shambling zombie-type monster, before turning into a stationary stone forced to relive their failed focus, forever). the time they have left can be tracked by the "eye" in the center of their brand, which opens as the mark advances, when it opens all the way, you turn Cei'th, this drives the party for the better part of the game. It's ultimately revealed to be averted with the main characters, the Fal'cie manipulating the L'cie heroes halt their marks after a certain point because he needs them to fulfill his Evil Plan, and wants them to have all the time they need to get strong enough to do so. And at the end of the game, they have the limit revoked completely when they succeed in their focus yet don't stay in crystal stasis, gaining "ruined" brands with no eye, much like Fang.
    • and in the sequel, Noel knows that when a seeress sees a change to the time-line, it shortens her lifespan. and then he realises that Serah is seeing visions. She eventually decides that saving the future is worth her life
  • At the start of Katawa Shoujo, hero Hisao has a heart attack and is diagnosed with a serious, potentially fatal heart condition. A big part of the Visual Novel's plot deals with him coming to terms with the fact that he could die any moment (though his condition isn't untreatable).
  • Reinforce Eins and the Lieze twins in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha As Portable: The Gears of Destiny are doomed to die in the near future and they know it. In both cases, they've accepted their fates and are trying to make the best of their remaining lives, atoning for past sins and preparing the next generation to ensure that the future is still in good hands.


  • A 2010 Berlin performance of Bertolt Brecht's The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny toys with this. In the original play, two characters die from sheer decadence: one by overeating and one by losing a boxing match. In the 2010 performance, the stage directions were projected onto a screen and often ignored or even protested by the characters, following Brecht's philosophy of "Verfremdung". So when Jacob sees that the stage directions say he has to die, he first starts protesting, then laughing, then whimpering, then falls over helplessly and stays there for the rest of the act while other characters are swimming in money around his corpse. He's joined by the boxer character (Joe) soon after. The performance is... unsettling.
  • The main plot of the play Send Me No Flowers is about a hypochondriac man who overhears his doctor on the phone, and ends up believing that he has days to weeks to live. Hilarity Ensues as he then starts preparing for his death, even trying to set his wife up with another man so that she will be cared for when he's gone.

Web Comics

  • Parodied in Adventurers; right before the Final Boss fight, Khrima is told this by Karn, and responds in an appropriately epic/goofy manner:

 "More like...numbered to infinity! For my number will continue to increment! The only number of consequence is your chance of beating me! And that's ZERO!"

  • In Grim Tales, Grim is revealed to have been adding sand to Mandy's life-hourglass in order to extend her life. On the other hand, Billy's own life-hourglass looks like someone hiccuped while blowing the glass. Lots of times. And there's sand everywhere in it.
  • Goblins has Dies Horribly.
    • Technically, that only says how he dies, not when.
  • Belkar in The Order of the Stick. The Oracle mentions that he "should savour his next birthday cake", along with several other less than subtle hints, surprisingly early on, but everyone forgets it due to the spell ensuring they only remember the predictions they paid for. The Oracle later gives Roy's ghost an official prediction (carefully worded to avoid Prophecy Twist, not that this stops fans who don't want to accept the Belkster's impending demise from trying) that Belkar will "take his last breath - ever - before the end of the year", of which there are less than seven weeks left. There's no way of knowing how many strips that means, however...
  • Marilyn Seong, AKA Mecha Maid from Spinnerette suffers from ALS and has maybe a year or two left.

Web Original

  • In the Kate Modern episode "The Confession", Griffin reveals that he injected fifteen girls with a serum that has had the side effect of slowly killing their immune systems, meaning that they will die in a few months time. Charlie, Kate, Julia, Steve and Terry attempt to track them down, but all are either missing or dead by the time they reach them, with one exception, Lauren. Following the events of "Precious Blood", Lauren is currently being kept alive only by taking a variety of pills daily for the rest of her life, as revealed in "The Drugs Do Work".
  • Survival of the Fittest: no matter which way you cut it, all but one of the students on any of the islands are subject to this trope - and even the guy who isn't won't be found out until right at the end. Additionally, pretty much every character except the most arrogant ones goes into the game assuming they're going to die.
  • In the Whateley Universe right now, there's an interesting variant. A young wizardess is trying desperately to avoid the consequences of an unstoppable curse. The variant? Said wizardess is the villainess Hekate, and the heinous curse was put on her by Fey, who is supposed to be one of the good guys.
  • In the Enthalpy episode "Robot Pilot; Or, McDarnold's La Verite", Charles is told that he will die in three hours because he ate a rotten burger. Charles uses his time to try and exact revenge on the restaurant he bought the burger from. Played for Laughs, in this case.

Western Animation

  • In an episode of The Venture Brothers, Dr. Orpheus is accidentally shot by Action Man. When everything is resolved, he grabs his hands...

 Dr. Orpheus: Two years, seventeen days.

Action Man: ...what?

Dr. Orpheus: From a stroke. Good day, sir!