Sixties. One of the main characters – Fyodor Sonnov, on the train to some near Moscow station, staggers through the streets of the town. Having met an unfamiliar young man, Fyodor kills him with a knife. After the crime – absolutely meaningless – the killer “talks” with his victim, talks about his “guardians”, about his childhood, other murders. After spending the night in the forest, Fyodor leaves “in the nest”, near Moscow, the place of Swan. There lives his sister Klavusha Sonnova, a voluptuous woman, who excites herself by pushing the head of a living goose into the womb; in the same house lives and family Fomichev – grandfather Kolya, his daughter Lidochka, her husband Pasha Krasnorukov, younger sister fourteen-year-old Mila
Fedor, meanwhile, makes a dig at the Fomichev side, goes upstairs to implement a strange idea: “to take possession of a woman at the time of her death.” Lidinka
Paul is imprisoned for the murder of his wife.
To Clavush comes the “little girl” – Anna Barskaya. A woman of a completely different kind, a Moscow intellectual, she looks with interest at Fyodor; they talk about death and the other world. “Wild” Fyodor takes Anna very much; she decides to introduce him to “great people” – for this they go somewhere in the forest where a gathering of people possessed by death is taking place, “metaphysical,” as Fedor calls them. Among those present – three “jesters”, fanatic sadists Pyr, Johann and Igorek, and a serious young man Anatoly Padov.
“Fools” with Fedor and Anna come to Swan. Here they are spending a lot of time: they kill animals, Pyr tries to strangle Clavush, but everything ends peacefully – she even promises to sleep with him.
Klava gets rumors that Fyodor faces some danger. He leaves – “wander around the Racei.”
Klava has another tenant – old Andrei Nikitich Khristoforov, a real Christian, with his son Alexei. The old man feels a quick death, rolls up tantrums, alternating with moments of Christian affection; reflects on the afterlife. After some time he goes mad: “jumping off his bed in one of his underwear, Andrei Nikitich said that he had died and turned into a chicken.”
Alexei, overwhelmed by his father’s insanity, tries to console himself with conversations with Anna, in whom he is in love. She teases his religiousness, preaches the philosophy of evil, the “great fall”, metaphysical freedom. Frustrated, Alexei leaves.
At Anna’s request to Swan, to “Russian, kondovym, folk-dense darkness obscurantism” comes Anatoly Padov, constantly tormented by the question of death and the Absolute.
Very warmly met by Anna, Padov watches what is happening in Swan. Young people spend time in conversations with the arrogant voluptuous Klavusha, with “kurotupom” Andrei Nikitich, with each other. Once Klavusha digs three holes in the human growth; the favorite occupation of the inhabitants of the house is lying in these “grass graves”. In Swan comes Alyosha – to visit his father. Padov teases Alexei, sneers at his Christian ideas. He leaves.
Anatoly himself, however, too, can not sit for a long time in one place: he too leaves.
Anna, exhausted by her association with Padov, sees another “metaphysical” friend, Izvitsky, in a nightmare. She ceases to feel herself, she seems to have turned into a wriggling emptiness.
Meanwhile, Fedor goes to the depths of Russia, to Arkhangelsk. Sonnov observes what is happening around him; the world annoys him with its mystery and illusory nature. Instinct pulls him to kill. Fyodor comes to the “small nest” – the town of Fyrino, to a relative of the old woman Ipatievna, who feeds on the blood of living cats. She blesses Fedor for the murders – “you bring great joy to people, Fedya!”. Fyodor, wandering about in search of a new victim, encounters Mikhey, who castrated himself. Struck by his “empty space”, Fyodor refuses to kill; they become buddies. Micah leads Fyodor to the Skoptsy, to the ritual. Friends observe strange rites; Fyodor, surprised, remains, however, unhappy with what he saw, he is not satisfied with the idea of the new Christ Kondraty Selivanov – “one must own one’s own.”
In Fyrino comes half-mad Padov – get acquainted with Fedor. He is interested in Anatolia with his popular, unconscious perception of the incorrectness of the world. In the conversation, Padov tries to find out if Sonn is killing people “metaphysically” or in reality, in reality.
From Fedor Anatoly returns to Moscow, where he meets his friend Gennady Remin, an underground poet, the author of “cadaverous lyrics,” an adherent of the ideas of a certain Glubev, who proclaimed the religion of the “higher self.” A meeting of friends takes place in a dirty pub. Remin spends time here with four wandering philosophers; for vodka they talk about the Absolute. Keen on Anatoly’s stories about the company that settled in Lebedin, Gennady with a friend goes there.
In the Swan “the devil was going on, he knows that” – all are converging here: the sadistic jokes, Anna, Padov, Remin, Klava, the remnants of the Fomichev family. Anna sleeps with Padova; it seems to him that he is copulating “with the Higher Hierarchies,” that she is already dead. Padova begins to pursue visions, he tries to escape from them.
In Swan is Izvitsky – a man about whom there are rumors that he is going to God by the devil. He is a great friend of Padova and Remina. Drinking, comrades conduct a philosophical conversation about God, the Absolute and the Higher Hierarchies – “Russian esotericism for vodka” as one of them jokes.
In the house come and Fedor with Micah. Alyosha Khristoforov, visiting his father, watches with horror the “non-humans” gathered here.
The boy Petya, who eats his own skin, leads himself to utter exhaustion and dies. At the funeral it turns out that the coffin is empty. It turns out that Clavush took out the corpse and at night, sitting down across it, devoured the chocolate cake. Cackling corpse-corpse Andrei Nikitich rushes around the yard; grandfather is going to leave Kolya. Girl Mila falls in love with Micah – she licked his “empty place.” All three leave the house.
The remaining spend their time in absurdly insane conversations, wild dances, and hysterical laughter. Padova is very attracted to Klavush. The tension is increasing, something is happening in Klavusha – “they were exactly furious, they stood on their hind legs and its Klava-Sonn forces were spinning with terrible force.” She drives the whole company out of the house, locks it and leaves. In the house there is only kurotrup, becoming like a cube.
“Metaphysical” return to Moscow, spend time in dirty pubs for conversations. Anna sleeps with Izvitsky, but, watching him, feels something wrong. She realizes that he is jealous of herself. Izvicki voluptuously loves his own body, feels himself, his reflection in the mirror as a source of sexual satisfaction. Anna discusses with Izvicki “ego-sex.” After parting with his mistress, Izvitsky fights in ecstasy of love for himself, experiencing an orgasm from a feeling of unity with the “native” I “.
At this time, Fyodor approaches Moscow; his idea is to kill “metaphysical” in order to break into the otherworld. Sonnov goes to Izvitsky, there he watches for his “delirium of the autocrat.” Struck by what he saw, Fyodor finds himself unable to interrupt “this monstrous act”; he is in a rage from the fact that he faced another, not inferior to his own, “otherworldly”, going to Padova.
Alyosha Khristoforov, meanwhile, convinced of his father’s madness, also goes to Padova, where he accuses him and his friends that they brought Andrey Nikitich to madness. “Metaphysical” reproach him for excessive rationalism; they themselves unanimously came to the religion of the “higher self.” This is the topic of their hysterical, hysterical conversations.
Fedor with an ax in his hand overhears the conversations of Padov and his friends, waiting for a convenient time for the murder. At this time, Fedor is arrested.
In the epilogue, two young Padov fans and his ideas, Sashenka and Vadimushka, discussing endless metaphysical problems, recall the very Padova, talk about his condition, close to insanity, about his “travels to the beyond”. It turns out that Fedor was sentenced to be shot.
Friends go to visit Izvitsky, but, frightened by his expression, run away. Anatoly Padov is lying in a ditch, hysterically shouting into the void from the insolubility of the “main issues”. Suddenly, feeling that “everything will soon collapse,” he rises and goes – “towards a hidden world, which you can not even ask questions…”.