John Isidore finds himself gripping the handles of the empathy box—he just had a profound vision. Irmgard grabs John and tells him to send the bounty hunter away from the apartment. John nods. He also notices that the spider is alive now, and crawling across his table.
This is a puzzling moment. On one hand, it’s clear that John’s vision was just a hallucination—it wasn’t real. And yet the spider is still alive—something “miraculous” has happened (Dick never explains what). The point seems to be that reality and illusion can’t be easily separated, and they will only grow more confused as the novel approaches its end.
John goes downstairs. There, he finds a strange man holding a flashlight (a man whom we recognize as Rick Deckard). John is more interested in his spider than in the man with the flashlight, and he tells the man that he’s “lost” his spider. The man introduces himself as Rick Deckard, a police officer, and explains that he’s looking for three people. John explains, immediately, that he’s looking after his “three friends”—the last three in a large group, most of whom are now dead. Rick asks John to show him to the room where the androids are staying. John replies, “If you kill them you won’t be able to fuse with Mercer again.” Rick shrugs and walks past John, into the building.
Here, the two protagonists of the novel, John and Rick, cross paths. But there’s no sense of connection between them—instead, Rick talks over John and ignores John’s babbling about his spider. It’s only appropriate that in a novel about futuristic alienation, the two main characters of the novel remain fundamentally separated. Rick, still angry from his argument with Rachael, is eager to kill some androids—he couldn’t care less about the future of Mercerism.
Inside the building, Rick turns off his flashlight. He recognizes that John, whom he calls “the chickenhead,” knows that Roy and his followers are androids. Suddenly, he sees someone move. Rick draws his gun and orders the figure to stop. The figure introduces himself as Mercer. Mercer explains to Rick that one of the people Rick is trying to kill is behind him. This person, Mercer explains, is the “hard one” and should be retired first.
The miracles (or hallucinations) keep coming: even though Rick doesn’t seem to be using the empathy box, he has a vision of Mercer, who gives Rick information that Rick couldn’t know by himself. There’s no way to rationalize this moment—it’s inexplicable, a reminder that the world can’t be reduced to easy categories like “real,” “fake,” “human,” and “android.”
Suddenly, Rick turns around and finds himself staring at a woman who resembles Rachael Rosen. He fires at the woman, and she explodes into tiny pieces. Then he hears a woman’s voice from behind a door, asking, “Who is it?” Rick, imitating John’s stutter, says that it’s John, coming back from his job. The woman who called to him opens the door. Suddenly a man fires at Rick, missing narrowly. This is what Rick wanted—now that Roy and Irmgard (the two figures behind the door, he deduces) have fired at him, he’ll have an easier time retiring them, since he’s no longer legally required to give them a Voigt-Kampff test first.
Dick now gives us some more traditionally suspenseful action sequences, although it’s clear that Pris is “the hard one” because she looks like Rachael—whom Rick just recently found he couldn’t kill.
Rick hears Roy and Irmgard running away from the door. He kicks down the door and runs into the apartment, shooting Irmgard in the back. Roy, in another room, screams in anguish. Rick calls, “Okay, you loved her. And I loved Rachael.” He rushes toward Roy and shoots Roy with his laser gun—Roy’s body explodes. Rick stands in the carnage, breathing heavily. He has killed six androids in only one day. Now he’ll have enough money to last a while, he realizes.
Roy never actually admits to loving Irmgard—Rick projects love onto him—but the pain Roy expresses at Irmgard’s death certainly shows some kind of strong connection. Ultimately, Dick doesn’t reveal whether or not androids are capable of feeling recognizable human emotions—but he also shows how difficult it is for humans to show recognizable human emotions, particularly in this futuristic society of isolation and apathy.
Rick turns and finds John Isidore crying. Rick’s only consolation to John is, “Don’t take it so hard.” Then he walks past John, finds a phone in the building, and calls Harry Bryant.
John doesn’t appear again in the book—Rick ignores him almost entirely. He’s failed to show true empathy for John, and John is left alone again, without even the comfort of his wholehearted belief in Mercerism to comfort him.