The chapter opens with a discussion on World War Terminus, a world war so bad they skipped the numbering system altogether.
After this massive nuclear war, nuclear dust covered the planet, killing animals by the species load and forcing humans to emigrant into outer space.
Those who remained on Earth were slowly deteriorated in the dust until they either died or developed mental and genetic disorders to become "special."
One such special, John Isidore, is getting ready for work in a Northern California apartment building where he lives by himself. Not just the apartment is empty, either. He's the only tenant in the whole building.
He listens to a TV interview with a woman who immigrated to New New York on Mars, and we learn that the space colonists are horribly unoriginal in naming places.
Isidore is bitter that he has become a "chickenhead," i.e. his genetic makeup has become so messed up that he can't legally move to the colonies.
On the other hand, he has enough of a mind to keep a job at a false-animal repair firm.
Turning off the TV, Isidore is suddenly struck by the sounds of silence. Not the Simon and Garfunkel album either but the actual, physical silence.
He reaches for the empathy box and merges with the mind of Wilbur Mercer, a type of futuristic, virtual reality Christ-figure.
Isidore also merges with everyone else using an empathy box at that time, and together, they all join Mercer's climb up a hellish, rocky mountain side.
A rock strikes Mercer during the climb, and when Isidore disconnects from the empathy box, he is wounded where the rock hit him. (Or is it "them"?)
He cleans the wound and hears the muffled sound of a TV coming from somewhere else in the building.
Ecstatic he is no longer alone, Isidore rushes to the refrigerator and grabs a cube of margarine—never having neighbors before, he has no idea what to bring as a housewarming present. Hint: It's not margarine.
He rushes into the derelict apartment building to find his new neighbor.