A screeching bat, confused by the webs of giant wolf spiders, flies at the cutter. As it passes a building, a giant iguana plucks it out of the air before shrinking back into the window. Giant iguanas perch in all the windows along the lagoon. The narrator says that the lagoons would've been beautiful if it weren't for the iguanas. Kerans thinks that the iguanas rekindle archaic memories of the Paleocene period, when mammals first became supreme.
Again, Kerans wants to see the lagoons as beautiful (and he can, from the Ritz) but the reality of the situation keeps him from maintaining his rosy view. He also places the idea of past and future in a cycle again, which suggests that the iguanas of 2145 are part of a return to a point in time millions of years ago.
The cutter moves through the central lagoon. Only the commercial and financial areas of the city survived the floods, while the residential areas were completely wiped out. Giant forests grow on massive silt flats, and the only way to navigate the city is through the water. Kerans remembers his northward journey through the cities of Europe as they were taken over by vegetation. The military base is in the third lagoon of the city, and Kerans watches the cliff-like buildings as the cutter moves through the water.
Here, the buildings are described as being almost like landmasses rather than structures built by humans. This adds to the sense that the natural world is taking over and pushing out the manmade world. Kerans also notes that it's the vegetation as much as the water that's doing most of the taking over. The earth is undergoing a process of rebirth that may or may not include a future for humans.
Kerans is entirely uninterested in the contents or the history of the cities, while Dr. Bodkin, who is 65, actually remembers living in some of the cities. He spends his spare time rowing around the city, searching for remembered places. Kerans grew up in Camp Byrd, north of the Arctic Circle. He came south for the first time nearly ten years ago when he joined the ecological surveys. Men like Bodkin are the only ones who remember living in the cities, though even when they were children, the cities were flooding rapidly.
While Kerans is relatively unattached to the manmade environment and the past it represents, for Bodkin the recent past is something alive, important, and worth hanging onto. Here, Bodkin’s nostalgia gives him something to do in his spare time, while in contrast, Kerans doesn't have any such memories of life in cities to preoccupy or ground him.
Seventy years earlier, solar storms began to erode the earth's atmosphere, leaving the earth unprotected from solar radiation. Temperatures rose by a few degrees each year and people began moving north to escape the heat and radiation. "Freak botanical" forms were observed within the first 20 years, brought about by the radiation. Plants and lizards thrived. The polar ice caps melted, as did glaciers. As they melted and the rivers expanded, the rivers carried away the topsoil and completely altered the landscape. The American Midwest is now a gulf that opens into the Hudson Bay, while Europe is a system of lagoons. Now, people only inhabit the Arctic and Antarctic circles, where temperatures are around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The radiation also affected fertility among mammals, such that only one in ten human couples are able to conceive. Kerans notes that at some point in the future, there will be a new Adam and Eve alone on Earth. He smiles to himself at this thought.
In this description of the last seventy years, radiation from the sun is the single most important factor: it's what's negatively affecting the human birthrate, and it's also what's giving the strange plants and the giant animals their advantage in this new, tropical world. The sun is therefore portrayed as a symbol of power as it ravages the earth. Kerans continues to take a grim view of the future, which shows that he doesn't have much faith in the ability of humans or science to find a way out of this dire situation. This Adam and Eve, it's suggested, won't be there to populate the earth—rather, they'll be the last people alive in humanity’s twilight.
Kerans notices Dr. Bodkin throwing berries to small monkeys from the testing station, while iguanas watch impatiently from 50 feet away. Macready steers the cutter towards an apartment block. Riggs and Kerans take the elevator, which still works, to the roof. Apartments surround a rooftop pool on three sides, while the open side looks onto the lagoon. Beatrice lies on a deck chair by the pool flipping through a magazine, dressed in a black bikini with big sunglasses. Kerans thinks she looks sullen and annoyed.
For a contemporary audience, Beatrice in her bathing suit in this particular environment is especially ironic: Ballard just explained how dangerous the sun is now, but here Beatrice is willingly exposing her bare skin to it. In many ways this suggests that she has a fatalist view of the future like Kerans does. Rather than resisting, she has given into the sun and its destructive effect on the planet and humans.
Riggs pauses to admire Beatrice from the rail until she notices him and reminds him she's "not a strip show." Riggs and Kerans walk down to the pool and sit next to her. Riggs reminds Beatrice that he has a responsibility to her. Beatrice curses, turns up her radio, and asks Kerans why he's here. He replies that he missed her, but adds that Riggs has made it very clear that they all need to leave in three days, and that they can't stay behind.
Mobilizing for the near future is difficult when that future seems precarious anyway. However, Kerans's insistence that they cannot stay behind shows that, at this point, Kerans does still see a future for himself, and knows that that he can only hope to survive further north, in the Arctic Circle.
Beatrice asks if Kerans’s use of "they" means that he might stay with her. Kerans brushes this off and says they must prepare to leave. Riggs reminds Beatrice of the rising temperatures and the shrieking iguanas, and says that she certainly won't be able to sleep once the unit is gone. Kerans wonders whether there was more to Riggs’s inquiry about his sleep when he hears this. Beatrice insists she'll be fine, but Kerans angrily insists that Beatrice must leave. When Beatrice insists that it's their duty to stay and refuses to get Riggs a drink, Riggs leaves Kerans and Beatrice.
Ballard is creating suspense here as to what could possibly be going on with Beatrice's sleep. This suggests that it's not just the outside environment that's becoming hostile–people's own minds have begun giving them grief. The relationship between Kerans and Beatrice is suggestive of an Adam-Eve relationship within the environment of the Eden that is London.
Kerans lies back on his chair, and Beatrice sits at his feet. Kerans apologizes for losing his temper and says that the order to leave took him by surprise. Beatrice asks Kerans if he's actually going to leave. Kerans pauses and says that he's trying to find a more valid reason for leaving. He wonders if the lagoons remind him of his "uterine childhood," but says that there's no hope against the rain and coming malaria.
Again, Kerans sees that the future is undeniably bleak and hoping to survive is vain. Despite this though, part of him does want to stay, specifically to reconnect with his "uterine childhood." This phrasing shows that he looks at the world and himself right now as being in a stage of development within the womb of the world, rather than in a process of death or decline.
Kerans asks Beatrice why Riggs asked her how she slept. She says that she's had several nightmares, but insists they're common and tells Kerans that he could stay with her if he decided to stay. Kerans reminds Beatrice that although she's tempting, she's also the only woman here. Beatrice asks if Riggs’s urgency is justified, and Kerans insists that it is.
Although Kerans himself doesn’t yet experience these nightmares or know what they are, Riggs seems to be concerned about them, and possibly even sees a link between the nightmares and the characters’ desire to stay behind in London.
Near noon, both Kerans and Beatrice go inside. Beatrice lounges on a sofa and Kerans admires a painting of dancing, naked, skeleton-like women by the surrealist artist Delvaux. He turns to a painting by Max Ernst of a self-devouring jungle. Kerans feels like he remembers something about the painting. He asks Beatrice for her attention and tells her that if they stay, they're staying for good.
By 2145, these paintings would be about 200 years old: they're relics from a truly distant cultural past. Kerans's possible memory of the jungle suggests that artwork has the power to trigger latent memories, while the violence of the painted jungle mirrors the violence of the actual jungle outside Beatrice's windows.