Chen Fan didn’t sleep well all night. At the first glimmer of dawn, Chen Fan got out of bed with dark circles under his eyes and went to the fish tank in the living room first thing. Having finished over ten years of compulsory education, he never would have expected this. He felt like a protagonist in some novel. It was beyond strange.
Eventually Chen Fan could not take it anymore. An animal’s self-control is extremely weak. Even though he only skipped one meal, Chen Fan was extremely hungry. This feeling was of course not from his own body, as he was used to irregular meals, but from the electric eel that he was tied to now somehow. He usually couldn’t care less what he fed it, and so the fish the eel ate were often old and stiff. Now the idea of long-dead fish for breakfast was distressing. The electric eel’s hunger was very uncomfortable, as if he hadn’t eaten for three or four meals. Now that his mind was controlling the eel’s body, however, he could not bring himself to eat old raw fish.
After thinking about it for a while, Chen Fan decided to change the electric eel’s diet. He ran to the kitchen and took some of the vegetables that he usually ate with his instant noodles, washed them, and threw them into the fish tank. Then, as the eel, he swam to the surface of the water to graze.
Chen Fan grimaced in agony after one bite. He had tried raw vegetables before, but they hadn’t been this hard to swallow. I guess it’s unrealistic to force a carnivorous fish to start eating veggies. Confused, Chen Fan decided he might as well just retract his consciousness to his own body and not care about the electric eel.
Chen Fan regretted that decision before half an hour had passed. The eel’s hunger made him want to bite off his own tail. It was torturous. “Damn, damn, damn.” It was a pity that cursing alone couldn’t fill his stomach. Gritting his teeth, Chen Fan took out a few inch-long sauries from the fridge. The long, thin, silver-white fish in his hands were not the famed Yangtze sauries dubbed one of the “Yangtze’s Top Four Delicacies.” They were just the ordinary farm-raised lake sauries that only cost a few dollars for a kilo. Chen Fan tossed them into the tank and then switched back into the eel’s body.
After much deliberation, his intense hunger finally defeated his willpower and took control of Chen Fan’s actions. “I’ll just pretend I’m eating sashimi.” Looking at the small white fish in the tank, Chen Fan gritted his teeth and took a bite of the fish. He chewed a few times and then quickly swallowed. “Hmm? This taste…” He licked his lips and enjoyed the slightly bloody aftertaste and the full feeling in his stomach. Raw fish didn’t taste as bad as he imagined.
Chen Fan decided to stick to it, and he quickly finished the remaining few fish in the tank. The eel’s body was small, though, and after finishing the sixth one his belly was more than full. “Awesome…” Chen Fan burped, a few bubbles forming at the corner of his mouth.
Chen Fan had nothing to do after eating, so he laid spread eagle on the bed. Chen Fan had always enjoyed daydreaming about crazy things, but now that something crazy was real… It was like how some people fantasized about a ghost-human romance when they had nothing to do, but if a female ghost really appeared, they would be terrified. Chen Fan had to force himself to face this no matter how weird it was.
Lying on the bed, Chen Fan started to think about what to do. Although this “replication” of his was not as exciting as those in novels, those were all imaginary. His was real. How about going to the river and electrocuting some eels or tortoises to sell? With this one-of-a-kind ability, the first thing Chen Fan thought of was how to capitalize on it. However, he quickly nixed this idea. He had no idea how much those would sell for, let alone how to find them.
“Damn it, If only electric eels were saltwater creatures! I could go search the seas for antiques from sunken Tang and Song Dynasty-era ships. Selling those would make a lot of money!” Chen Fan sighed at the idea. Zhongyun City was a coastal city; Chen Fan often watched programs on local TV about ancient sunken ships discovered nearby. The ships were always full of valuable bowls and vases from the Song and Yuan Dynasties, or silver and gold ingots from the Ming and Qing Dynasties, or other ancient treasures.
Thinking about oceans made him think about his major, marine biology. Although he almost never paid attention in class, he still had some general knowledge of marine life. Strictly speaking, there was not much difference between freshwater and saltwater fish, except for the salinity levels in their bodies and the amount of salt they filter from the water.
Freshwater fish had high levels of salt and protein in their blood and body fluids, and the concentration was higher than that of the surrounding freshwater. This made freshwater flood the body through osmosis to try to equalize the salinity. Freshwater fish constantly release water in order to maintain the higher salt levels.
If a freshwater fish like the eel entered saltwater, the concentration of salt in the saltwater would be much higher than the fish have in their bodies. The osmotic pressure in the ocean water would draw water from inside the fish. A saltwater fish would have the physiological regulatory mechanisms to filter the salt back out of their bodies through their gills, but a freshwater fish would not have that ability. It would drink the ocean water in an attempt to replace the lost freshwater.
The electric eel, like a saltwater fish, could also use its liver and gills to break down the salt in water, but not well enough to survive in the ocean. It would be overwhelmed by the salt. Thinking of the almost endless amount of treasures in the ocean, Chen Fan felt depressed and was going insane. “There’s a heap of treasure but no way to reach it! ” He sighed helplessly and decided to make a trip to school tomorrow to ask the “experts” there if they had any solutions.
He was silent all night. Early next morning, after feeding his electric eel avatar, Chen Fan grabbed the same bike he’d had for four years and rushed to school. Zhongyun University was situated in the northern part of the city. It was about an eight mile ride from Shangcheng Gardens where Chen Fan lived.
After arriving at school, Chen Fan did not go to class but went straight to the office building. When he reached the office at the corner of the second floor, Chen Fan took a few breaths and gathered his thoughts before knocking at the door.
“Come in,” came an elderly voice from inside the room. Chen Fan edged into the room. A desk stood right in the middle of the room, with huge piles of files and books surrounding it. “What can I do for you, young man?” A man with graying temples raised his head from a pile of documents on the table and pushed his glasses up his nose.
“How are you, Professor Wang! I’m Chen Fan from section seven. I used to attend your lectures and I have a question for you.” The bespectacled, stooping elderly man in front of him was one of the three ancients of the school. He had been teaching there for 41 years, and had received several nominations and accolades from the province. He had also received second prize in the National Natural Science Award in biology.
“Oh, Chen Fan…” Professor Wang put down his fountain pen and thought for a moment as he massaged his forehead, “I think I remember you. What is your question?”
Chen Fan hesitated, then asked, “Would an electric eel be able to survive in the ocean after a period of salt adaptation?”
“Electric eel?” Professor Wang wondered why this former student was asking an obscure question like this. He had an answer though, and gave it to Chen Fan after a few seconds of thought.
“No, the salt-tolerance abilities of freshwater creatures are developed after a long process of biological evolution. To change its adaptability to the surrounding water, I’m afraid it would take more than ten generations of breeding with the most scientific methods. It would take at least ten years.”
“Ah…” Chen Fan sighed disappointedly. Refusing to take no for an answer, he asked again, “Are there any other ways?”
Professor Wang laughed and asked, “Why are you so interested in this, young man?” You could use electromagnetic radiation or pulsar rays to stimulate the fish pituitary gland, making it secrete huge amounts of growth hormones for the liver and gills, thereby enhancing its ability to breakdown salt. Gene therapy can also change the arrangement of DNA, causing it to mutate to resist the invasion of salt. But…” The elderly professor paused and touched his chin. “There are many theories, but none could be put into practice. These are all non-hereditary changes. Not only is there a high cost to the research, but it would be completely unprofitable. No one has done this type of experiment before.”
“Electromagnetic radiation?” Chen Fan asked with a thrill. He tried to hide his excitement, but it was impossible. He looked like a man with a mission.