1 The Terrifying Electric Eel

Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio

The people of Zhongyun City always said that, if you wanted your child to get a decent job but had no access to one, just send him to Zhongyun University! Zhongyun University is a third rate university that the neighboring counties looked down on but the locals were proud of. There was some jealousy, though, in the hatred from these neighboring counties. In 1958, the cities and counties nearby established six or seven universities at once, but, unfortunately, only this third-rate university in Zhongyun City survived.

Nonetheless, some aspects of the culture of this university did indeed invite scorn. For example, as long as you were a registered resident of this city, it didn’t matter if you had been to jail or had never achieved more than fifty percent on your exams. If you paid tuition, you were guaranteed a seat in the classroom within half an hour. No other university could to match Zhongyun’s efficiency. Nonetheless, for a school with students from such diverse backgrounds to survive so long, it must have had some unique features.

These unique features included the eight-door anti-aircraft artillery tank and the underground bomb-proof bunker donated this year. The bunker is more than twenty meters deep and covers tens of thousands of square meters. Also, two scrapped MiG-15 imitation J-2 jet fighters in full working condition except for dismantled weapons systems were donated for the mechanical engineering students to learn from.

The software facilities are not bad either. Ignoring the antique equipment, which has been around since the school was founded and is treated like treasure, the guarantee of a job placement after graduation is sufficient to attract a large number of students.

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Chen Fan was frustrated. After bumming around in Zhongyun University for a few months, he had finally realized how foolish and naive he had been. He saw an unfamiliar face in class yesterday and he thought that it belonged to a new transfer student like himself. After asking, he found out that he was just a regular old student, but that he had not attended class for almost half a year. This shocked Chen Fan completely. One could actually attend school in that fashion?

Man progresses because of the ability to recognize shortcomings and improve upon them. Chen Fan had always felt that he was one who strived for improvement. He was not able to skip school for half a year, but skipping class for a few days was doable! The next morning, he got up a little after 8:00 and had already decided that he was going to skip class. He had almost never seen the thirty-some students from his class in full attendance anyway; it should not impact anything if he skipped class for a few days.

Chen Fan was studying the uncommon profession of Marine Biology. The name sounded like an extraordinary high-technology discipline to the layman, but it was actually exceptionally boring and also very useless. As implied by the name, marine biologists just fiddle with marine life, but who in their right mind would go and examine marine life?

Then again, Chen Fan had never expected to learn anything useful. He had been ranked at the bottom of his class starting in elementary school and continuing through high school. He only wanted to choose an easy field to get through these four years. He was never cut out for studying, so even if he was sent to the number one globally ranked Harvard University for college, he still would not learn anything.

Life was indeed boring for him, be it in school or at home. Chen Fan wasted his whole morning sitting in front of the computer. After ignoring his hunger until noon, Chen Fan finally went unwillingly to the kitchen. He had been too lazy to fix any food in the morning, and since it was already noon, the fats stored in his stomach had been used up. If he did not fix something to fill his stomach soon, the acids in his stomach were going to rise up to his throat again.

Chen Fan’s parents had a five to six acre aquaculture farm in a village more than twenty miles away from the city. The farm was busy all year round and they were unable to get away, so Chen Fan, who was staying in the city, had to provide food for himself. Chen Fan had no "virtues" other than being exceptionally lazy. Due to his irregular eating habits over the years, he had developed gastric problems and his stomach would ache terribly at night. Even in such pain, he was too lazy to get medicine.

Chen Fan always lived simply. He took out two eggs and a pack of instant noodles from the fridge, set some water on the stove, and sat there waiting for the water to boil. With a height of 1.78 meters and 65 kilograms, and due to lack of exercise over the years, he did not have a big appetite. This small amount of food was enough for lunch. After filling up his stomach, Chen Fan took out a few palm-sized fishes from the old-fashioned Haier fridge. Do not be mistaken; he did not have a habit of eating raw fish. He was going to feed these to his "pet".

This "pet" of Chen Fan’s was quite exotic. Not to say that people do not have exotic pets; many people keep lizards, snakes, spiders etc, but all these are incomparable with Chen Fan’s. Chen Fan had an electric eel, a species nicknamed the "Slayer of the Amazon River".

The electric eel is one of the few creatures in the world that can generate large electric currents. An adult electric eel, about two meters in length, uses the special muscles on the sides of its abdomen to produce a discharge of over 600 to 800 volts. How much is over 800 volts? Over 800 volts could easily kill an adult male within a short period of time. Yes, Chen Fan’s pet was indeed interesting.

In the small living room of about twenty square meters, Chen Fan threw the fish one by one into the two-by-one meter glass fish tank placed in the corner. It was a little funny how Chen Fan came by this young less-than-one meter long electric eel. Although the electric eel is terrifying, it tastes as delicious as puffer fish. This electric eel was a gift from Chen Fan’s uncle, who specialized in selling aquatic products. The history of eating electric eel in China is not as long as eating puffer fish, and it only started to gain popularity in the southeastern coastal regions in recent years.

Chen Fan’s uncle had intended to give the eel to Chen Fan’s family for them to taste. However, Chen Fan protested. How could this strange and exotic creature be eaten? He took ownership of it and kept it in an unused fish tank. The electric eel is a freshwater fish, and can survive on just normal tap water and some small fish. Other than changing the water, which was troublesome, there were no other care requirements that bothered Chen Fan. Chen Fan found himself scratching his head as he thought about changing the water. As electric eels cannot be touched with bare hands, it took him a long time to change the water. Since he obtained this electric eel more than a month ago, he had not changed the water more than five times.

After he finished feeding it, Chen Fan looked at the muddy yellow water in the fish tank and scratched his head again helplessly. The water in the tank had not been changed for almost a week. This electric eel with its black back and yellow belly twisted its body from time to time and floated to the surface of the water. It was gasping for air and had long been disgusted with the muddy water in the fish tank.

After hesitating for a moment, Chen Fan decided to change the water again. If he didn’t, he was worried that this young electric eel might not be able to survive till the next day. It was really an extremely difficult task to change the water for the electric eel. He had to be very careful not to have any physical contact with it. If he touched it by accident, the consequences would be dire!

Chen Fan first went to the bathroom and filled the big basin for washing clothes halfway with water. Next, he used a tuck-net to transfer the electric eel into the basin temporarily. It was not an easy job to manually change the water of a two meter long fish tank. Fortunately, with today’s technological development, water pumps could be used instead. The fish tank and water pump were bought for decorative purposes three or four years ago when the house was renovated. However, they had been left idle since Chen Fan’s father’s whole tank of tropical fish died. It was not until about a month ago, when Chen Fan got this electric eel, that they were useful again.

After dragging out a cord stand, putting the water pump’s tubes into the water tank, and turning the switch on, Chen Fan sat on the couch and waited for the water pump to empty out the tank. Chen Fan sat on the couch with his legs crossed, listening to the sounds of the water pump at work and staring at the ceiling with extreme boredom. His posture was very unsightly.

While he was daydreaming, the water pump beeped behind him, notifying Chen Fan that its job was complete. Anyone who keeps fish knows that if a fish tank has not been scrubbed for a few days, the surface gets covered with a layer of sticky grime. Although Chen Fan was quite lazy, he paid attention to cleanliness and could not stand seeing that sticky stuff!

After cleaning up the substance in the fish tank, Chen Fan turned on the water pump again and filled the fish tank with clean water. Actually, Chen Fan would not have had to go through such trouble if it had been an ordinary fish. But this was not an ordinary fish; this was an electric eel. With the other nickname "underwater high voltage cable," the water pump would be damaged if placed in the tank with the eel.

After the water pump filled the tank with water, Chen Fan switched it off and took it out of the tank. Then he picked up the tuck-net from beside his feet and carefully caught the electric eel in the big basin. The almost one meter long electric eel weighed more than twenty kilograms. Using the side of the basin for leverage, the handle in Chen Fan’s hand looked especially heavy.

"Damn! This can’t go on! How am I gonna change the water when this fella grows to two meters?" Looking at the electric eel alive and kicking in the tuck-net, Chen Fan was troubled. "How about I kill it and make some stew?" Stew or not, Chen Fan decided to wait and discuss the matter with his parents when they found the time to come visit. Cooking an electric eel was a difficult job, and he decided to leave it to his mother.

"Damn, why have you grown again?" With the half-meter base and one meter tall fish tank, it took a lot of effort for Chen Fan to move the tuck-net back onto the edge of the fish tank. He turned the handle to get the electric eel to fall into the water by itself. After turning his hand ninety degrees, the electric eel succumbed to gravity and fell into the tank with a thump, splashing water and soaking Chen Fan’s upper body.

"Bah!" Chen Fan quickly moved back a few steps and wiped his face with his hand. Obviously, the eel could not understand a human’s thoughts. After falling into the water from half a meter up, the electric eel suddenly reacted like a frightened kitten and struggled hard in the water. Fish all have one thing in common: they jump to the surface whenever they get frightened.

It has to be mentioned that Chen Fan was inexperienced. People who keep fish purposely do not fill the fish tank to the brim, so as to prevent any fish from jumping over the sides. Inexperience kills. The electric eel, with its snakelike streamlined body, was good at swimming. With only a struggling wiggle, it moved along the surface of the too-high water and jumped out!

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