“The man gazed at Ransom with his calm eyes. ‘Sit here and wait’. He gestured around at the camp. ‘This won’t last forever. Already most of these people have only a day’s water left. Sooner or later they’ll break out. My guess is that by the time they reach the water they’ll be thinned out enough for Ethel and me to have all we want.’”
After reading a few Ballard you discover there are certain points in the narrative where things can go one way or the other. As the water runs out Ransom appears to be quite happy staying in the town doing nothing. He keeps telling everyone he will leave but you never quite believe him.
So when the moment comes for him to leave it feels almost unreal with you wondering if he has fully committed to the full implications of the long journey South to the coast.
Again you half wonder if he will stay but the burning city, marauding gangs of fishermen and zoo animals wandering the streets have made that perhaps not a real option.
Once he reaches the coast with a motley band of people he has picked up and dragged out of the city the true horror of the mass of people waiting for water hits them. The sea, covered in a film of chemicals that stop it from evaporating normally, is blockaded by the army and a sense of restlessness is beginning to take over.