This story starts with a flashback. Our new narrator, Zachry, tells us about what happened at Sloosha's Crossin' when he was nine years old.
Zachry, his brother Adam, and his Pa were coming back from the Honokaa Market. They stopped and pitched camp, and Zachry was sent to fetch firewood.
Squatting in a bush with "diresome hole-spew" (6.1.3)—um... use your imagination... or better yet, don't—Zachry is taunted by Old Georgie, some sort of devilish spirit, who says, "Name y'self, boy, is it Zachry the Brave or Zachry the Cowardy" (6.1.6).
When Zachry gets back to camp, he sees that the Kona have ambushed the camp. He watches (becoming Zachry the Cowardy) as they slit his dad's throat and take his brother away into slavery.
Zachry flees to Abel's Dwellin', but he doesn't tell Abel "the hole true" (6.1.17); he says he got back to camp and found his dad dead. He's Zachry the Cowardy and Zachry the liar.
Fast forward to when Zachry is fourteen years old. When Zachry slept in the Icon'ry as part of a coming of age ritual, he had a vision from Sonmi: "One: Hands are burnin', let that rope be not cut. Two: Enemy's sleeping, let his throat be not slit. Three: Bronze is burnin', let that bridge be not crossed" (6.1.44). Sounds important.
Finally, he tells us about the Great Ship o' the Prescients. Every six months, at the Honokaa Market, the Prescients arrive on their ship. They barter special stuff with Zachry's people, the people of the Nine Valleys, but they never "barter gear Smarter'n anythin' 'ready on Big I" (6.1.50).
One day, the Prescient Chief goes to the Abbess and says that a Prescient named Meronym wants to live with the people of the Nine Valleys, like a foreign exchange student.
Zachry isn't happy about Meronym living with his family, but he has to suck it up and deal with it.
Meronym integrates into Valleysmen lifestyle, helping milk goats, draw maps, and more.
Despite how nice and helpful Meronym is, Zachry is determined to root her out as a traitor.
Determined to find proof, Zachry roots through Meronym's stuff while she's out learning honeyin' from Aunt Bees.
Zachry finds a silver egg called an orison that plays a video of a holographic girl speaking in another language. Princess Leia, is that you?
Then the video switches to a livestream of a man who can also see Zachry. He demands to know where Meronym is, and why Zachry's going through her stuff. Zachry, afraid he'll be cursed, puts all Meronym's stuff back and vows he won't tell anyone what he's found.
A few days later, Zachry's sister, Catkin, steps on a poisoned scorpion fish. Zachry tries to convince Meronym to save her life, but Meronym doesn't want to interfere with the natural order of things.
Zachry tells her, "jus' by bein' here you're bustin' this nat'ral order" (6.1.147).
Meronym relents and gives Zachry a "small-as-an-ant-egg turquoise stone" to heal Catkin with. Who knew wintergreen Tic-Tacs had healing properties?
Later, Meronym wants to climb Mauna Kea. She says: "Prescients'd got Smart what'd ward Old Georgie away, so Zachry agrees to accompany her. Everyone thinks he's cray-cray because of Truman Napes, who scaled Mauna Kea and almost had his soul eaten. Allegedly.
On the way, Meronym tells Zachry about what happened before the Fall. Her people believed cities survived but "they finded the cities where the old maps promised, dead-rubble cities, jungle-choked cities, plague-rotted cities, but never a sign o' them livin' cities o' their yearnin's" (6.1.167). She says there aren't many civilized places left in the whole world.
Meronym also says that the "Old Uns tripped their own Fall" (6.1.174). Greed was their downfall.
At the top of Mauna Kea, Meronym and Zachry reach Old Georgie's temples. They're not temples, "but observ'trees what Old Uns used to study the planets'n moon'n'stars" (6.1.189).
Inside the observatory, Meronym uses her orison to record her surroundings. Zachry asks about the ghost-girl recording he saw, and Meronym tells him that it is Sonmi.
Yes, that Sonmi. Meronym tells Zachry that she was just a person; she wasn't a god like Zachry's people believe.
His head spinning over this revelation, Zachry is addressed by Old Georgie, who tries to talk Zachry into killing Meronym. Although Zachry considers it, he doesn't kill her right away.
Zachry has another opportunity after they leave the observatory. Scaling a cliff, Meronym almost falls from a rope.
Zachry says time freezes. "Snowflakes hanged specklin' the air. Old George swished 'em aside" (6.1.227). He tries to convince Zachry to cut the rope. That's right, Meronym is a piece of candy and Old Georgie is Om Nom.
Zachry almost does it, but he remembers the first premonition from Sonmi: "Hands are burnin', let that rope be not cut" (6.1.44).
Sure enough, Zachry's hands are burnin' from sliding on the rope. So he doesn't cut the rope.
Everyone is excited to see Zachry and Meronym return in one piece, and time passes uneventfully until the next market day, which is Meronym's last day in the Nine Valleys.
On the hike to the Honokaa Valley, Meronym tells a story about how man re-learned the making of fire after the Fall.
A Wise Man summoned Crow (who must have had a day off on the Satellite of Love) to fly into a volcano and return with fire.
It doesn't make a lick of sense, but Meronym says "it ain't 'bout Crows or fire, it's 'bout how we humans got our spirit" (6.1.246).
After a bustling day of trading at Honokaa Market, it's party time! Zachry puffs on a pipe and falls into bed with a sexy farm girl.
In the morning, Zachry wakes up to the smell of smoking breakfast and people still partying.
However, it's not a party and "smoky brekkers" (6.1.252); it's battling, and the town is on fire.
The Kona have ambushed the town and killed pretty much everyone. Zachry tries to escape, but they knock him out and take him into slavery.
The Kona slavers are cruel and brutal, beating the slaves, starving them, and stealing Zachry's boots. Many die.
One night, the slavers stop, make a campfire, drink, and feast. They pick one lucky slave to join them. His luck is short-lived, however, when the Kona take turns raping him.
The Kona rape party is cut short when some sort of space-age gun blast hits the Kona rapist right between the eyes. A quick battle ensues, and one of the Kona men manages to get the space-age pistol. Unfortunately, he mistakes "the shooter's mouth for its ass and flashbang[s] his own head off" (6.265).
Their savior whips off her helmet. It's Meronym! She and Zachry untie the slaves, take back Zachry's boots, and escape.
Zachry rests to heal his wounds, and when he wakes up, Meronym is chatting with a Prescient named Duophysite on her orison.
Duophysite asks Zachry to guide Meronym to Ikat's Finger, where she can sail to Maui and be reunited with the rest of the Prescients. Unfortunately, the Great Ship won't be returning, because a plague has wiped out most of the remaining Prescients.
Meronym tells Zachry about a few other tribes she's lived with, including a tribe called the Swannekke, who must have lived near the reactor from Luisa Rey's days.
On the way, Zachry wants to find his family, but his village is deserted. He assumes they are dead and goes to the Icon'ry to re-find the icons. "If [he] left 'em there to be axed by'n'by for firewood there'd by nothin' to proof the Bailey's Dwellin' kin'd ever existed" (6.1.306).
As he's leaving, Zachry finds a sleeping Kona. He remembers Sonmi's second prophecy: "Enemy's sleeping, let his throat be not slit" (6.1.311).
Zachry ignores it and slits the man's throat anyway. "In our busted world the right thing ain't always possible" (6.1.313).
Zachry and Meronym narrowly escape the approaching Kona tribe and hide in a cave under a waterfall.
There Zachry and Meronym have a conversation about life after death (Meronym believes there is none; Zachry believes in reincarnation) and the difference between civilized and savagery. That night, Zachry glimpses a "whoahsome wyrd birthmark jus' b'low [Meronym's] shoulder blade" (6.1.334).
The next morning, they follow the stream to a bridge, guarded by the Kona.
Meronym pretends to be a Kona chief to catch them off guard before shooting them both.
This draws the attention of a stampede of Kona on horseback, who chase Zachry and Meronym back to a bridge. Zachry remembers the final prophecy: "Bronze is burnin' let that bridge be not crossed" (6.1.345).
Zachry tells Meronym the bridge isn't safe, so they hide. Sure enough, the bridge collapses under the weight of all the Kona.
Finally, Zachry and Meronym arrive at Ikat's Finger, and they board the kayaks to Maui. Zachry watches the island on which he's lived his whole life recede into the distance: "[M]y Hole World an' hole life was shrinked 'nuff to fin in the O o' my finger'n'thumb" (6.1.360).
The story switches point of view for the last page, to Zachry's unnamed son. He says that Zachry was "a wyrd buggah" (6.1.361) who died.
In his belongings, Zachry left an orison. Sometimes the children warm it in their hands and the ghost-girl appears. Our narrator wants to show it to you. "Hold out your hands. Look" (6.1.365).