The next morning, Rick calls the Mount Zion Hospital, where Dave Holden, the bounty hunter, is being cared for. A nurse tells him that Dave isn’t receiving calls, no matter how urgent they might be. Rick finds this disappointing—he wanted Dave to approve of his actions, and to praise him for retiring six androids in only one day. It occurs to Rick that Mercerism is an “easy” religion, because Mercer accepts absolutely anything as natural and “right.”
Rick drives his hovercar out of San Francisco, toward the Oregon desert, an area that’s now very dangerous, due to the radiation. In the desert, he gets out of his car and begins to climb a tall hill. As he climbs, a stone hits him on the cheek. Rick has a strange sense that Wilbur Mercer is waiting for him at the top of the hill. Before Rick reaches the top of the hill, he slips and falls. Dejected, he climbs back down to his hovercar.
Rick’s behavior in this scene mirrors the vision that John had at the beginning of the novel, and one that seems to be crucial to Mercerism: climbing a tall, insurmountable hill, but being struck by rocks and falling short. If Mercerism has any actual substance, it’s this sense of constant struggle—something like the Greek myth of Sisyphus constantly pushing the boulder up the hill. The distinctions between reality, hallucination, and man-made falsehoods are now almost gone. In some sense, Rick has become Mercer, even though Mercer himself was never real.
In his hovercar, Rick snorts some snuff and then calls the police station. He tells his secretary, Ann Martsen, that someone killed his goat. Ann, watching Rick on the screen, is shocked that his cheek is bleeding. She mentions that Mercerism has been exposed as a fraud, but Rick insists that it’s not. Mercerism is only fake, Rick claims, if reality is fake too. Rick even feels that he has become permanently “fused” with Mercer, and cannot unfuse himself. Before Ann hangs up, she tells Rick to call Iran soon—Iran has been wondering where Rick is.
Rick insists that Mercerism has some substance to it, especially now that he has seen first-hand that reality itself is full of fictions, some of which lead to more falsehood, but some of which lead to a higher emotional truth. As with John’s experience in the empathy box, Rick might have been somehow hallucinating his “fusing” with Mercer, but there is also physical evidence (his bleeding cheek) that suggests his experiences were “real.”
Rick thinks about Rachael. It’s illegal for humans to have sex with robots, he remembers. Rachael is probably back in Seattle by now. In a way, Rachael was right—having sex with her changed him forever, but not in the way she’d expected. He picks up the phone in his car to call Iran.
Rick recognizes the paradox of his relationship with Rachael—she actually inspired him to kill the remaining androids. At the same time, Rachael has made Rick question the stability of the real world—his conclusion, depressing as it might be, is that nothing is ever fully “real.”