In 1977, a boy
sits in front of a TV and plays Pong. His father walks in and snaps his fingers for attention. The father starts a metronome on top of a piano. The boy sits down and begins playing Bach
as the father listens with his eyes closed. The boy finishes the song, closes the music book and piano, and goes back to playing Pong.
In 1987, the boy listens to rock music as he plays Tetris on a Game Boy. His father comes in and turns off the radio. He tells his son to listen and puts on a record of Bach's Chaconne. His father discusses the grief Bach went through when composing it. Bach's wife had died, he had lost 3 children and would lose 7 more. He asks if his son can hear it and tells him it is how men like him pray.
The son types away on a keyboard in his dorm room, programming in C++. He hears Chaconne playing in the distance and follows the sound to another dorm room where a student is practicing her violin. He asks her to play it again and realizes something monumental about its composition.
The son plays a new piece at the piano for his father. His father compliments it, saying it is beautiful like Bach. He explains to his father that a computer wrote it. He imported Bach's music into a database and wrote a program to statistically arrange the notes in the same manner as Bach. It sounded too artificial so he realized he need to give it "permission to shatter the rules." His father is disappointed to learn that it was composed by a computer.
The son sits in a church at his father's funeral as the computer-composed music continues playing in the background, rising higher and higher as blocks and pixels begin to form in front of the church organ. Technical Boy materializes as the music crescendos into a techno beat.
Shadow is asleep in Ibis and Jacquel Funeral Parlor. He hears a cat meow and a naked woman approaches him, telling him she is glad he came. She pushes him back onto the bed. Shadow protests that Laura will kill her. She passionately kisses him anyway, explaining that Laura won't kill her. She licks at the wounds he suffered over the last few weeks and begins to ride him. She scratches at his chest and his back, telling him to let it happen. They finish having sex and she tells him to rest and let it go. He falls back asleep. Shadow wakes up the next morning to Bast the cat at the foot of his bed. He walks naked over to the mirror and sees that his wounds have completely healed but he has been left with claw marks on his chest and back.
Mr. Ibis is preparing Lila Goodchild's body for burial when Shadow walks in. Ibis asks if Shadow slept well. Shadow hesitates and stutters before replying that he did. Ibis explains to Shadow that he is not a coroner (a politically appointed position) but a prosector and a mortician. Ibis and Jacquel Funeral Parlor has been around since 1863, when they became the local funeral parlor for Black people during the Civil War. Bast the cat enters and Ibis communicates with her via whistle. Ibis explains how he never thought of himself as "African American" before the civil war because they were the "people of the Nile." Shadow asks if anyone else is around and Ibis takes it to mean he is asking after Laura. Wednesday enters behind Shadow, silently warning Ibis to keep quiet about Laura's whereabouts. Ibis tells Shadow that death changes a person and Laura is not the same as she was. Wednesday invites Shadow to join him on a drive as he subtly references the events between Shadow and the woman the night before. They head off in Betty to St. Louis to meet up with the god of Money.
Bilquis arrives at the funeral home as Wednesday and Shadow drive away. She enters a chapel and encounters Ruby Goodchild sitting alone in front of an empty coffin. Ruby asks how she knew her grandmother and if she's friends with her mother, Ida. Bilquis replies she is there for Shadow. Bilquis asks about the empty casket and Ruby explains that her grandma is to be buried in the next couple of days. Bilquis asks who she is praying to. Ruby explains how her reverend talks about God as an idea, a quote Bilquis recognizes as one from Beneatha. Bilquis tells Ruby that no woman should hide her heart in God because she cannot hear her own truth. Mr. Nancy interrupts with a quote he attributes to Maya Angelou about a woman hiding her heart in God to make men search for Him to find her. He criticizes Bilquis not picking a side in the war. She defends herself for not choosing a side because of Mr. World killing Zorya Vechernyaya.
Technical Boy vapes in the Black Briar bunker as he and New Media discuss Media's rebirth. She can still feel Media inside her and wonders if a future version of Media will feel both of them inside. Technical Boy explain how people are aware of their own mortality whereas animals are not. Media is a god, neither animal nor human, and she didn't die but changed into New Media. Mr. World enters to reprimand them for what happened with Argus. The Caretaker acts as Mr. World's chorus as he explains to them how losing Argus has left him blind. Mr. World shoves his thumbs in Technical Boy's eyes as he demands for him to restore his sight. Technical Boy tells him there is someone in Silicon Valley who owes him and he will get Mr. World an upgrade.
Shadow and Wednesday arrive in St. Louis and stop at a Motel America diner. Shadow plays with the silver dollar Zorya Polunochnaya gave to him as they discuss the inherent value of money and how it is physically worthless but the "greatest story ever told" is the promise that it is worth something. Mama-ji arrives and pours Wednesday some coffee, explaining to Shadow that she is at every Motel America as her followers own over half of the motels in America. Wednesday again tries to entice Mama-ji to war, reminding her of when she helped annihilate Raktabīja. Penny Scouts march into the diner, distracting Wednesday as Mama-ji warns Shadow that Wednesday will be the death of him.
Technical Boy arrives at the campus of Xie Comm, a Silicon Valley software company. He bypasses the security measures with a flip of his middle finger and strides through the hallways as taunting messages from New Media appear on the LED walls and his iPhone. He enters the office of the CEO, the boy who once played Bach for his father. The CEO asks if Technical Boy has something new to show him.
Mr. Ibis is working on Lila's body in the preparation room of the funeral parlor when Bilquis arrives. They greet each other with affection before Bast the cat and Mr. Nancy enter. Nancy confronts Bilquis for initially siding with Mr. World and Ibis for not riding the carousel because he wants peace. Nancy wants to know the trade-off for joining the New Gods. Nancy understands oppression, exploitation, and human trafficking and how it has only evolved in America from slavery to prison, police brutality, and other traumas. Ibis acknowledges that he hears every voice and records their names from a bird's-eye view while Bilquis claims that their suffering is timeless and not sacred. Nancy tells them they cannot sit out this war and as three African gods, it is on them to fight for themselves. If a Black lady had died instead of Zorya Vechernyaya, Wednesday and Czernobog would not be seeking vengeance. Bilquis is moved by Nancy's speech and kisses him deeply while Ibis looks on uncomfortably before proposing they have a drink.
Technical Boy explains to the CEO how with Argus' death, a vacancy has been left for him to fill. People are willing to give up all of their information and data for free and Technical Boy has access to everything and his own eyes are everywhere.
Wednesday approaches the Penny Scouts in the diner and asks to buy some of their candy on credit. They ask for Wednesday's and Shadow's names as time in the diner stops and they slip into the Bookkeeper's mind. They announce that Shadow's name is not the one on his birth certificate and he has no debit or credit, which Money hates, so their access is denied.
Bilquis approaches Ruby where she sits praying in the chapel. She prays because it gives her comfort, the same way running used to before she messed up her leg. She tries to be accepting and patient of her situation because it allowed her to be with Lila while she was sick. Lila had a church and a community that allowed her to take care of Ruby and Jamarr and was content. Bilquis looks toward the crucifix on the altar and mentions how Jesus was not content and was a troublemaker and died because he angered the men in power. He refused to be cowed and now he wields great power and worship. Ruby introduces herself to Bilquis and offers her hand.
Shadow is trying to buy candy from the Penny Scouts but they ignore him. Shadow confronts Wednesday and demands to know why he picked Shadow. Wednesday explains he picked him because Shadow had nothing and no one and has no value or worth. Shadow is unbothered by his comments because he realized he does have value to Wednesday and Wednesday needs him.
The CEO wants Technical Boy to show him what he has in mind. Mr. World enters, criticizing Technical Boy for proving he is redundant and shows New Media to the CEO who transforms into a visual design for him to interact with. The CEO is no longer able to see or hear Technical Boy, having forgotten him. Technical Boy races out of the office and down the halls as New Media flashes "delete" and "fail" on the LED walls. He enters a stairwell and rushes downstairs, finding himself locked in the building. A virtual reality box sits at the bottom of the stairwell. The box opens and attaches itself to his face, transporting him within.
As Mr. World leaves the Xie Comm offices, the Penny Scouts offer him some candy. He tells them he does not need to pay since he retired a god today and they grant him access. Mr. World appears in the Motel America diner where Wednesday and Shadow sit waiting to speak with Money. He confronts Wednesday for Argus while Wednesday confronts him about Zorya Vechernyaya. Money interrupts their face-off, asking to pay. Mr. World reminds Wednesday that physical cash is being digitized. Wednesday reminds him that money loves profit and war is profitable. They sit down with Money and try to convince him to join their sides. Money does not take risky emotional investments so he will not choose a side. Money pays cash for his meal and leaves. Mr. World tells Wednesday he is not his enemy before also taking his leave. Shadow and Wednesday return to the present in the Motel America diner.
The father's hand stops the metronome atop the piano.