Somewhere in America
New York. An apartment building. Nothing fancy.
A middle aged Egyptian woman is cooking a meal. She steps up onto a rickety stool to reach for something from a pantry shelf. A hairless cat, very sphinx looking, is watching almost as if it expects something to happen. The woman grabs a jar of what appears to be self canned peaches or other fruit. The woman goes back to stirring, spicing, complaining about her ‘worthless’ family and arguing with the cat about how to cook the meal just the way the family likes it. The cat only answers in meows but it still feels like it actually understands her and is replying.
There is a knock at the door. There is a strange black man at the door. The woman says he has the wrong door but the man says he does not. He tells the woman that she is dead and must come with him. At first she doesn’t believe him but then she sees her body on the floor. She asks the man why, when they are a Muslim home, does Anubis (an Eqyptian God) come for her. He reminds her that she was once a child learning about all the gods and she has not forgotten them, even if she doesn’t worship them. So Anubis comes to take her to the scales. Before she goes, she insists that Anubis try the dish she was cooking. He does and tells her that it’s perfect. He leads her up a fire escape that turns into a pyramid, the cat following them. At the top is a fantastic visage of sand and stars. Anubis leads her to a pair of golden scales where he places a large white feather.
He then rips the woman’s heart from her chest and still beating places it on the other side of the scale. The scale balances and Anubis leads her to a set of 5 doors, each to a different world. He tells her to choose but she can not. She asks him to choose for her, her only wish being to not be in the same world as her abusive father. Anubis opens a door for the woman. She hesitates and the cat pushes her inside. The door closes and Anubis and the cat walk away.
Shadow sleeps on the sofa. He is woken by something. He sits up to find the window open. He looks out and sees nothing but his curiosity makes him don his jacket and climb up the fire escape. On the roof he finds a kind of observatory and a young woman.
She is the absent sister, Zorya Polunochnaya. She watches the sky through an antique looking telescope. She tells Shadow that there is a bad thing chained up in the stars. If it ever gets loose it will end the world. So the sisters watch the skies to make sure the thing stays chained up. The sister takes Shadow’s hand to read his fortune and tells him that he has nothing, because he believes in nothing. Also, he keeps giving his life away. She offers to give him something if he will kiss her, because she is the virgin sister and has never been kissed. Before he can say no, she kisses him. In exchange she offers him the moon, reaching up and taking it out of the sky, turning it into the coin. She tells him that he had the sun but he gave it away and don’t give away the moon. She then tells him to wake up.
When Shadow wakes up, he finds himself back on the sofa. He goes into Czernobog’s room and challenges him to another game. Czernobog taunts Shadow that he can’t be killed twice but Shadow gabs at him that its been years and maybe he can’t kill Shadow in one blow. Shadow says he wants to be sure that Czernobog can finish the job. Shadow’s terms are that Czernobog comes with them and can kill Shadow when Wednesday’s business is over or Czernobog gets two shots at sunrise. Czernobog agrees. Shadow wins this game.
While they are playing Wednesday visits Zorya Vechernyaya for some late night chatting and flirting. Wednesday hands her an empty coffee cup and asks her to tell him his fortune. She tells him that his plan will fail and he will be killed but he shrugs it off. They go for a walk outside and a rain storm starts. Zorya Vechernyaya tells Wednesday she can taste something on the rain and he tells her it is war.
Shadow wakes up to find there is no fire escape outside the window. But a first assumption it was a dream is dashed when he finds the coin in his pocket. Before he can make any sense of it, Wednesday comes in and announces they are going to rob a bank as if it’s the most ordinary thing in the world. For Wednesday it probably is.
Jack’s Crocodile Bar.
Jack enters a bathroom, shot gun in hand to find Mad Sweeney passed out on a toilet. Jack threatens to shoot him and Sweeney brushes it off saying that the gun will fail etc. But it doesn’t. Sweeney takes off down the road on foot. A man pulls up alongside him and offers Sweeney and ride. Sweeney eventually accepts. A few yards down the road, the truck in front of them blows a tire and a pipe falls off and skewers the driver. Sweeney hears one of the responders make a reference to ‘crazy bad luck’ and he digs furiously in his pockets pulling out several coins. But he drops them as if they aren’t a certain coin. A lucky coin. That it seems he gave away to Shadow.
An Arabic man in a suit sits waiting for some kind of appointment, a case at his feet.
He ends up sitting there all day, waiting for some mystery man who never shows up. A rain storm has started while he was waiting and the man gets soaked as he tries to hail a cab. Finally one stops. The driver is also Arabic, rather vulgar mouthed and oldly wearing sunglasses even though it’s night. The sales man starts up a conversation with the driver that turns to their rather shitty lives. They get stuck in a traffic jam and the driver dozes off. When the salesman reaches up to wake the driver he notices the other man’s eyes, eyes of flames.
He recognizes the eyes from tales he learned as a child, the driver is an Ifrit, a Jinn. Eventually their conversation leads them to the salesman’s hotel room where they have sex. A raw sort of sex, full of literal magic. Magic that transforms them into something more cosmic than human, the fire of the Ifrit, literally filling the man. In the morning the Ifrit is gone and the salesman finds a license and cab driver permit with his face on them and the Ifrit’s clothes. The salesman dresses and finds the cab outside. He slides behind the wheel with a smile.
Shadow is less than happy about the idea of robbing a bank. He doesn’t want to do anything illegal. Wednesday bullies Shadow into going into the bank where Wednesday grabs a stack of deposit slips. They make their way across the street to a small grocery with a payphone. Wednesday tells Shadow to think about snow, about it snowing. Shadow has no clue what Wednesday is talking about (a common situation for Shadow).
Shadow complies, as they drive to a copy shop where Wednesday has several signs and some business cards made. Shadow dozes off, waking up to discover that it is actually snowing.
Mad Sweeney interrupts their lunch, demanding his coin back. Shadow tells him that he tossed it into his wife’s grave. Sweeney pops a rude comment about Laura before storming off. After lunch, Wednesday and Shadow return to the bank. Wednesday pretends to be a guard collecting night deposits etc because the outside ATM and the night drop are “out of service”.
Shadow hangs out by the payphone. A police car pulls up on the Wednesday and they call the phone where Shadow pretends to be a supervisor. Surprisingly the police buy his bullshit.
Sweeney digs up Laura’s grave only to find that his coin and her body are gone.
Shadow enters his motel room to find his dead wife sitting on his bed waiting for him.