Everyone in New York City is talking about the impending comet, including the president. The president sends Jim, a young Black messenger, down to the lower vaults to retrieve records. Jim heads into the dark peace of the vault, which appears empty until he hits on a secret compartment with the records and a chest of gold. As he's examining the chest, he feels a low crash from up above. The vault door shut and he works to pry it open again. When he emerges, he sees the vault clerk dead. He continues upward and finds the watchman, the guards, the president, all dead. The city streets are silent, the forms of its pedestrians all frozen mid-action. A newspaper stand announces the comet's arrival, advising all to shelter in basements sealed off from the comet's potentially noxious gases.
Jim is nauseous with horror and, to steady himself, eats food from a restaurant that wouldn't have served him hours ago. He takes a car to prowl the streets and discovers a young woman crying out from an upper window. The two meet, pondering the different worlds they come from, but are joined in their despair at the dead world around them. They search Harlem and find Jim's friends all dead, then search vainly for the girl's father. Midway through the search she's compelled to leave him, disgusted again at her consortium with a Negro, but is drawn back in her loneliness and fear.
Jim asks the girl if he can jump off a bridge into the water, and she says no. They ascend to the roof of her father's office, where he warms and feeds her. She has always been rich, she confesses, and he says he has always been poor, but they've been brought together by the great leveler of death. The strains of race and class fall away from them in the bind of a higher prophecy, the two see their souls naked in a moment of divinity and move toward one another. They cry together, 'The world is dead' - but just at that moment, life erupts with honks and voices and light. The woman's father rushes to her, alarmed to see Jim next to her and hostile to him until she reassures him that Jim in fact rescued her. The crowds snarl to see the two of them together, threatening to lynch Jim. A young Black woman calls his name and he falls gratefully into her arms.