Look author, you are sometimes *too* mysterious. Here I just noticed that Francis says “A one way trip, Amila. At least it was for *me*. It is isn’t too late to change your mind”.
But in strip 0624-0625 we learn that he did go down one of the elevators, but he came back 7 years later to Mars to collect Phobos. Is the post-1974 Francis Carter in the reality Epiphany a martian construct like his son Phobos? Just how many layers of conspiracy are built into this webcomic? 🙂
The simplest assumption is that he’s speaking figuratively, as in, “Seeing this part of Mars changed me forever.” But then again, when is Westward ever simple?