Rick sees a toad near his hovercar. This is an incredible sight, as toads are considered extinct creatures. Furthermore, there’s a massive reward for discovering an animal previously considered extinct. Rick wonders if Mercer arranged for him to find the toad, as toads are the animal most sacred to Mercer. Then, Rick decides that this can’t be true: he is Mercer, meaning that he arranged to find the toad.
In the final chapter of the novel, Rick finds some kind of connection with nature. He has achieved a strange empathy with Mercer (seemingly “becoming” Mercer on some level) and now finds the toad—but, notably, his first thoughts are of the reward and prestige he will get for finding it.
Carefully, Rick catches the toad, placing it in a cardboard box he finds. The toad is big and fat and strangely cool to the touch. He feels a strong sense of connection to the toad, and realizes that he’s seeing the world through Mercer’s eyes. Excited to show Iran what he’s found, Rick drives back to San Francisco.
Rick thinks that he’s found a valuable animal that will make him rich and powerful—and that will make him feel a real sense of connection and empathy. But this wouldn’t be a Dick novel if it didn’t have a bittersweet, ambivalent ending.
Iran sits in the apartment next to the mood organ. There’s a sudden knock—it’s Rick, with his cheek cut and his clothing dusty. He tells Iran that he has a surprise for her, contained in a cardboard box: a toad. Toads, he explains, are tough creatures—they can survive anywhere, even a desert.
The perspective shifts abruptly in this final section: we’re seeing the world from Iran’s point of view. Rick is clearly tired and haggard—he’s had a long, long day. And yet Iran focuses on Rick’s gift, not Rick himself: like Rick, she’s excited about the prospect of owning an exotic pet.
Iran inspects the toad carefully. She finds an electric switch on the toad’s abdomen—it’s just a fake animal. Rick is crestfallen. He can’t imagine who would place a fake toad in the middle of the desert. He remembers the spider that John Isidore mentioned to him, and thinks that the spider was probably fake, too. But even electric animals, Rick thinks, have “their paltry lives.”
This passage represents Rick at both his bitterest and his most optimistic. On one hand, Rick sees that there is no “reality” behind his religious epiphany—the world is strange and meaningless, or to the extent that the world has a meaning, the meaning is just a cruel joke (for example, that someone placed a fake toad in the middle of the desert for Rick to find). And yet at the same time Rick comes to have a grudging respect for the value of all life, and an appreciation even for things that aren’t technically “real.” Rick no longer presumes to judge what’s human and what’s android, or what’s real and what’s fake, and this leads him to a larger state of mind than he started the novel with.
Rick tells Iran that he’s going to sleep, since he needs rest. Iran nods and tells him that she’ll set the mood organ to 670, the setting for “long deserved peace.” While Rick sleeps, Iran calls the pet store and orders artificial flies for the artificial toad. The store salesman suggests that Iran bring in the toad for periodic “tongue adjustments,” and feed it a mixture of crawling and flying bugs. Iran agrees to all these treatments for the toad, explaining, “My husband is devoted to it.”
As the novel ends, we move away from Rick’s point of view. Iran, passive throughout the novel, becomes the actor while her husband rests. Iran isn’t a particularly loyal or loving wife (Rick clearly doesn’t get along with her that well), but she shows her respect for her husband in small, almost pathetic ways, like ordering flies for his new pet. On one level it’s suggested that Iran is being naïve or false in claiming that Rick is “devoted” to the toad, but Rick did have a very real experience finding the toad, and has now come to acknowledge that it has a life and reality of its own, so on another level it is still very valuable to him. In this uneasy ending Rick has found some kind of “long deserved peace,” but this peace is still an emotion manufactured by a company, and Rick has still abandoned John, his fellow human, to presumably a worse fate.