Night falls, and Ransom sleeps on his fish’s back as best he can. Once, he wakes up and sees mer-people feeding on seaweed; this reminds him that he is hungry. He samples some of the seaweed that floats on the surface of the water, and it briefly makes him feel like a merman himself. He discards the seaweed. Around this time it dawns on him just how long the chase is taking and how very vast Perelandra is. Some of the fish are even getting tired and giving up their pursuit. The sheer strangeness and solitude of Ransom’s experience overwhelms him and makes him begin to doubt Maleldil.
Ransom endures a dark night of doubt. His disorienting attempt to eat seaweed reinforces the alienation he feels—he has no familiar points of reference in this vast ocean, just as he has no precedent to fall back on in fighting the Un-man. Where Perelandra had once felt like a wonderland, overflowing with signs of Maleldil’s creativity and care, it now feels like an empty wasteland. The lack of evidence of Maleldil’s continued presence assaults Ransom’s faith.
Absorbed in these thoughts, Ransom is startled when Weston’s body speaks to him; its fish is moving towards him. Weston’s body looks battered; he’s in tears as he says Ransom’s name. Ransom suspiciously asks the figure to identify himself, and the voice responds with Weston’s characteristically irritable tone. He doesn’t know where he is and fears being left here alone. Ransom assures him that dying on Perelandra is better than many fates that could befall them on Earth.
Strangely, Weston’s true personality seems to resurface. Ransom suspects that this reappearance of humanity could be a last attempt to trick and tempt Ransom away from his intended course of action.
Weston tells Ransom it’s all very well for him not to fear death. But Weston knows death is real and there’s no escaping it. That’s why it’s important to live for as long as one can. Life is like the thin rind on a fruit; the only important thing is to thicken that rind by whatever small amount one can, lest one plunge into the “real” universe beneath, which goes on forever.
Weston’s personality—if indeed that’s what it is—fears death. His fears echo Ransom’s suspicions about Weston’s scientific goals—that they’re motivated by the desire to cheat death.
Ransom tries to argue with Weston, but Weston argues that even reasoning is only valid within the “rind.” Underneath the surface, there’s nothing rational; even real or unreal, true or false, don’t exist. Ransom just feels maddened by Weston’s continual mumbling. He keeps trying to draw Weston back to basic facts—like where Weston has been over the past few days.
Weston fears that there’s no stable, enduring meaning in the universe. Ransom feels that under the circumstances, these philosophical ramblings are rather out of place. He’s more concerned with figuring out whom he’s talking to—if it’s really Weston or just another temptation.
As the waves begin to pick up, Weston panics. They’re approaching a rocky coast, and he’s terrified that they will crash into it in the growing darkness. Ransom, too, feels an overpowering, indefinite horror. Yet he tries vainly to cheer Weston, telling him his ramblings are nonsense and that it’s time to pray and prepare for death—they’ll end better than the young men facing worse deaths on Earth at this very moment. But then Weston clutches Ransom, powerfully pulls him off his fish’s back, and drags him deep below the surface of the water.
Ransom, again, feels fear in the face of death, but it doesn’t dissuade him from his faith—it’s possible to take courage and be thankful that they’re dying less dreadfully than the young soldiers of World War II. Ransom’s character also comes through in that, under great strain, he shows compassion even to someone as horrible as Weston.