The class briefly talked about hallucinatory experiences found at desert festivals like Burning Man, and just how prolific finding those kinds of experiences are at festivals. Going beyond the expected substances like lsd and magic mushrooms, there is a more correlative hallucinatory drug (or rather, a chemical process) that may explain the character’s blending of his comfortable reality and his slow death in the desert.
Shade presents the player with a glimpse into a near-death experience: a mystical dissolving of warm memories of the home and the fateful reality of dying in the desert into one experience that becomes a blended reality. According to recent studies in holistics, researchers have and are looking into DMT. Supposedly upon near-death experiences, the chemical Dimethyltryptamine naturally floods the brain, causing the person to go into an immense hallucinatory experience that makes the deathbed person fall into an experience that is relative to their subconscious and firm beliefs. The experience can often blend past memories, tightly locked beliefs in the subconscious and even the real surrounding to create a dream-like sequence. As the reality of the character is masked by the apartment, which is supposedly a reaction from the DMT, the imminent death in the desert causes the brain to release this chemical as the character is about to pass away, easing the stress of him as he inevitably passes on. The game doesn’t explicitly give clues as to whether or not the character had taken DMT or is experiencing the effects of DMT as a result of dying, but DMT is certainly the creation of the distorted reality.
If the character had willingly taken the DMT to “transcend” his experience in the desert, that form of argument can be defended. Among a group of desert-dwelling music lovers, those concerts have a propensity for being a land of milk and honey for the person looking to have a “transcendent experience” in the hands of colossal artwork and spell-inducing music. Though certain myths and stereotypes do exist when talking about these kinds of events that people may consider hippy-infested music events, a quick search on Google will be a testament to drugs having a home there if a person is looking to open that kind of door. If the morose character of Shade had taken DMT to transcend his experience at the desert festival, the flashback into his dimly lit apartment and melancholy life would attest to the character having taken the hallucinogen. The melancholia within the lonely apartment is a reflection of the character and the dark, lonely soul.
An interesting fact revealed by studies on DMT shows that DMT, which can also be found existing in some plants, originates and is produced by the pineal gland during experiences of death and birth. It is associated with the 7th chakra, which is commonly denoted as the 3rd eye. Taking DMT as recorded by certain researchers attests to the experience as the opening of the 3rd eye, as a kind of fear of falling into death, but as the body slowly falls back into reality, the user feels a kind of rebirth into the world.
So determining the use of DMT as having been a willing one or one caused by the slowly dying character is one that is too opened ended for answer, but certain clues do point to the experience being one excited by DMT. Whether or not the character was looking to open his 3rd eye and transcend the lonely life of the doleful apartment or the character is in fact experience DMT as a result of dying, it does seem likely that the author intended to express that DMT was floating around the brain of Shade’s character.
But talking about hallucinations in the desert, this isn’t an uncommon idea among people looking for illumination. Jim Morrison famously had done this, so thinking this kind of knowledge was knowingly floating, the character may have been trying to excite one of these experiences to go beyond himself. The end is just a a hallucinatory death.