Voyager detect the signature of an as-yet undiscovered heavy element within the ring system of a planet and organise an away team to investigate the cavern systems of one of the rocks. In doing so they discover numerous humanoid bodies, covered in a cobweblike substance and conclude that the cavern system is a burial ground. They discover that the burial ground is still in use when a 'subspace vacuole' opens and deposits a dying body shrouded in the webbing. Another vacuole begins to form and the away team is beamed out for safety reasons, but Ensign Kim disappears into the vacuole and is replaced by a female alien body, also wrapped in the webs.
Kim has been transported to a mortuary on the aliens' homeworld, and finds himself in a pod-shaped device, which the aliens open to release him. They identify themselves as the Vhnori, and believe that Kim has come from the "Next Emanation", their name for the afterlife. The pods, when activated, open a vacuole and transport the dead Vhnori body inside to the emanation. While being confined to the mortuary building for the time being, Kim meets a man named Hatil who has been scheduled by his family to go to the Next Emanation. Hatil does not wish to, however, and the confusion surrounding Kim's arrival to the planet re-inforces his doubts about the nature of the afterlife.
Meanwhile on Voyager, the Doctor revives the body of the woman who replaced Kim. She becomes hysterical when she realises that the afterlife is not as she had believed. Eventually she agrees to be transported into a forming vacuole in an attempt to be returned to her homeworld, but the attempt fails and she dies again. The woman's body rematerializes, swathed in the weblike substance, and collapses.
On the homeworld, Kim and Hatil agree to switch places, so that Kim can be transported back through a vacuole using the burial pod and Hatil can escape and live out his life in a rural village. Hatil wraps Kim in his burial shroud, and Kim is rescued by Voyager and revived after being transported through the pod. Later, he thinks about the accidental damage he may have done to the religious aspects of the Vhnori, but Captain Janeway reassures him that their scans picked up emanations of neural energy coming from the bodies of the deceased Vhnori, and a giant energy field made of thousands of these energy patterns is around the asteroid field and an indication to a possible afterlife.