An anonymous narrator describes how he pedals his old bicycle from Monument, Massachusetts to his father in Rutterburg, Vermont. We find out in a later chapter that the narrator's name is Adam Farmer. Adam leaves home that morning without saying goodbye to anyone. He stalls his journey because of his fears—he has claustrophobia and a fear of open spaces. Most of all, Adam is scared of the dogs he thinks will attack him on his bike route. After he decides to leave, he wraps up a gift for his father, and packs warm clothes for the trip, such as his father's old woolen cap. Adam also takes his savings, about thirty-six dollars, which is enough for a bus trip to Rutterburg. He chooses to ride his bike instead of the bus because he wants to control his direction on the "open road."
Adam wants to call someone named Amy at her school before he leaves, but he decides against it and instead thinks about Amy and something called "Numbers," and their romantic times together. He also does not take some pills before he leaves, and throws them down the garbage disposal. After several miles on the road, Adam is already tired, but soon he reaches a hill and sails into the town of Aswell.
Tape OZ001 is the first of a series of taped transcripts that feature conversations between Adam and someone who introduces himself as Brint. The dates of these conversations have been deleted. Brint, who is "T" on the transcript, asks Adam to try and remember his earliest memories. He alludes to one night in particular. Adam describes this mysterious night as if he were born that night and became a human being. He mentions the sensory impressions of lights and his mother's perfume.
The narrative then switches to a third-person account of Adam and the night. The chapters that are titled "Tape" include conversations between Brint and Adam, and also sometimes have a third-person account of a memory from Adam's past. In this memory, Adam lies in bed in some kind of pain. He tries to listen to the sounds outside his door of his parents making love or cuddling, but this night he hears urgent whispers and they try not to wake him. Adam's father walks to the door, pauses, and then moves on.
The chapter returns to the conversation between Brint and Adam, and starts off after Adam has conveyed the memory of the night to him. Brint questions Adam about the memory, but Adam can only remember that his parents were discussing what to do with him and where to send him. Adam recalls that his family took a long, exhausting bus trip. He finds it odd that he was always aware of two smells—his mother's perfume and his father's scent of tobacco after he smoked—but after the bus trip he never associated his father with cigarettes anymore, as he does not smoke. Adam feels that the trip's purpose was to run away for some reason. They ended up in a different house and, although the family was still together, everything felt different. Since it was winter and still cold at their new house, Brint suggests that they did not move far, and that perhaps his father got transferred in his job. Adam says he is not sure what happened.
The chapter switches to a third-person account of Adam's inner thoughts. We learn that Adam does know what happened, but he does not want to confide in Brint, a doctor, even though he seems friendly. Adam considers telling Brint about the clues, and the narrative jumps back to the taped conversation. Brint asks him "What clues?" In his mind, Adam wonders if the doctor read his mind or if the medicine is just playing tricks on him, making him believe he is thinking when he is actually talking. In the taped conversation, Adam asks to go back, but we do not know where.