The Sandbox Approach
“In the early stages of gastric cancer, you stand a good chance of being cured. However, your condition has now deteriorated, and the cancer is more advanced, meaning the chance of recovery is reduced. However, if you continue to actively treat it, it is still possible that you will…”
“There’s no need. I want to be discharged from the hospital.”
After being inside for more than two hours, Xu Zhi stepped out of the doors of the hospital. A long period of chemotherapy had caused his hair to thin and his body to be haggard and rickety. He was in an extremely sickly state.
In the early stages of cancer, recovery was still possible with active treatment. But once a person’s condition had deteriorated, the survival rate was extremely low.
There was no longer any point in continuing with the treatment.
He silently thought things through.
Xu Zhi was quitepetent and had been working for a large foreignpany, but he had already used up more than half of the 500,000 to 600,000 he had accumulated in savings over the past four or five years. He had worked hard for several years, but in the end, it had all been for nothing.
He bought a high-speed rail ticket and dragged his suitcase behind him as he headed all the way back to his hometown in the countryside of Tongcheng County.
It had been a year since he had been back to his hometown which was situated near the mountains. The house that his family owned had an isolated orchard garden with an entrance of its own.
His family’s land had been thought to be rich in minerals, and the area behind the house was contracted to plant hundreds of fruit trees.
But half a year ago, the market price of lychee tumbled. Too much of their stock had rotted and to top it off, they had also been scammed by people who reached out to them to propose a way to help solve their problem of sluggish sales. His family had ended up spending money on engaging help while also being cheated of so much money, causing them to incur a total loss of nearly one million. Having spent so much without receiving a single cent in return, his parents had collapsed from extreme anger half a year ago and had never got back up.
Now, with all the hired workers gone, the orchard was left untended. The trees had long since been cut down and the orchard had be barren. There were only weeds left on the ground.
He unlocked the door and pushed it open, only to be greeted with a puff of dust.
The farm life that he had been so familiar with since he was a child came into view. He put his luggage down. This was where he intended to spend the remaining days of his life in his hometown. He had returned for a simple country life.
Suddenly, he heard a strange rustling sound.
“What’s that? It seems like something’s buzzing away in the yard.” He got to his feet and walked into the vast expanse of the orchard garden. Amidst a pile of weeds, he found a black beetle that was the size of a bowl.
“It’s so black! What kind of insect is this?”
Xu Zhi reached out his hand.
For a moment, his mind was sucked into the black shell of the insect and taken to a period of its vast racial history.
That was a long period of history featuring the rise of the Insecta, an ancient species of insects that had emerged from a green planet, similarly to how the Cambrian Explosion had led to mankind’s existence on Earth during the Cambrian Period. They cultivated intelligence, developed technology, and with their extensive ability and potential to reproduce, they paved their way up to the starry sky. At the peak of their technological development, they became aware that the world they were living in was relatively barren and poor.
Finally, they broke through to a new dimension. They entered a world of fantasy that was of a much higher level, and also a world that was beyond their imagination. That was the Realm of Immortality. But they were instantly defeated upon entering, as though losing the battle was simply a matter of course.
In the Insecta nest, the Insecta Queen of the previous generation left a final message that was filled with regret:
“When ites to the evolution of organisms, bigger is not better. The only legitimate path one should take is to increase the strength and power of one’s own body.”
“We took the wrong step from the very beginning. Getting bigger the more we evolved was the wrong path to take. The smaller the body, the more well-equipped it is with the foundation for qualitative changes in energy… We have lost, and no matter who bes the next Insecta Queen, you must fight your way into the Realm of Immortality again on my behalf!”
Soon, Xu Zhi found that he had taken control of the Insecta nest. From the memories he inherited from the Insecta, he realized that this extremely aggressive and mighty race literally only had one ability.
“Ultra-high-speed cellular division?”
The Insecta race had the ability to shorten the lifespan and accelerate the rate of cellular division speed of an organism within a very short space of time. This allowed the living organisms in its race to be born, bloom, mature, wither and die, just like a fleeting blossom.
In the memories Xu Zhi was seeing, the hatchery of the Insecta was a war fortress.
So long as the hatchery produced cells—spores—and released them on a barren planet to initiate the process of “ultra-high-speed cellular division”, within a few years, those cells would reproduce at a crazy rate and evolve into a brand new species that would be one of the troops of the hatchery.
“This race has infinite possibilities.”
At the thought of this, Xu Zhi’s mind could not help getting restless.
Chronic illness, as well as the torture of chemotherapy, had made Xu Zhi felt physically and mentally exhausted. He had even begun to wonder if there was any point to living such a boring life. Now that he was in his final days, he suddenly found something that truly piqued his curiosity: the evolution and progression of living organisms.
“The former Insecta Queen scattered and released spores on many barren planets. These spores multiplied and evolved into countless races that went on to build their own worlds. I might not have a planet, but I can use this ability to create a small evolving sandbox in my orchard, just for the fun of it, right?”
“With this hatchery of the Insecta, a war fortress, I can totally create a miniature sandbox with features like mountains, lakes, oceans, and flowing rivers, in this orchard of mine. And then I can allow countless spores of the Insecta race, which are unicellular organisms, to evolve into countless species in this sandbox…”
“It feels like a game of Minecraft. If I can create a world and evolve a civilization, as well as countless races, then maybe I can even find a cure for my cancer in this civilized world?”
Xu Zhi’s emotions were stirred. Was this an opportunity that luck had delivered to him?
Cancer was incurable in his modern world. This was probably his last hope of survival.
“I have to build a sandbox fast. I need to go buy some tools for plowing!” Xu Zhi scoured the farm his family owned and found a tricycle that was covered in dust tucked away in a corner. Panting like a balding old man, he doggedly rode the tricycle into the town, his body drained of energy from all the chemotherapy he was put through.
Then he spent thirty to forty thousand of his savings and lugged a bunch of equipment and instruments meant for farmyard landscaping purposes home. Back in his courtyard, he happily began the set-up.
He did not have a planet. All he had was an orchard that spanned over a hundred Mu of land in which to build a sandbox world.
He hired another batch of workers to help him clear the weeds and overgrown trees in the orchard and after the land had be a flat ground of earth, he took hold of a hoe. Like a farmer, he casually dug the ground to mold miniature mountains and lakes, freshwater rivers, caves, as well as all kinds of barren sandbox terrains.
Then he took out the high-temperature educator that he bought and used it to grill every inch of the entire sandbox at high temperature. This was to get rid of all potential flora and fauna, so that existing Earth’s lifeforms would not affect the evolution of the Insecta’s spores…
And there was no need to be bothered about the microorganisms. Besides, it would have been exceedingly difficult to. They would eventually end up being devoured by the Insecta’s genes and evolve into new Earthly species.
“The origin of all living species is the ocean. I need to build a huge ocean filled with water.”
His parents had originally built a small fishpond in their orchard. After some thought, he spent another huge sum of money on hiring a few workers to help and went on to open up the fishpond, digging up the soil for irrigation. Having built a shallow, man-made pond, he poured in the salt he bought and, according to the proper salt to water ratio, he had created an ocean.
But a difficult problem arose.
This was not a huge planet that was round in shape. It was a 100-Mu sandbox on flat ground that was squarish. The structure of this land was aligned with the topographical structures found in ancient myths: where the sky is round, and the earth is square.
“A mythical land, is that what I have here?”
Xu Zhi’s body was considerably weakened by his illness, and he toiled through a laborious week to organize the entire hundred Mu of land in the orchard before he could finish setting up the huge sandbox.
It was only then that he took control of the hatchery’s nest mind and began mass producing unicellular organisms belonging to the Insecta, all of which were in the initial stage of evolution. Spores were injected into the Central Ocean of the sandbox that he had created.
He gave an order to the hatchery:
“Accelerate cellular division: Ten thousand times!”
According to the Insecta’s system of counting units of time, accelerating one time was equivalent to a period of one year.
Accelerated at a rate that was ten thousand times faster, the day that these unicellular organisms took to evolve was equivalent to a period of ten thousand years, but it still remained to be seen whether this could give rise to new species, and whether it was possible to re-create the Cambrian Explosion that happened on Earth back in those years in a tiny courtyard sandbox.
On the first day the spores were released, the crystal clear water of the Central Ocean remained unchanged. There was no change at all.
On the second day, the entire sandbox was still incredibly quiet.
The third day and the fourth day also passed uneventfully.
Finally, on the fifth day, in the entire Central Ocean that he had designed, the unicellular organisms began to evolve into a certain amount of plankton, and the water began to turn visibly turbid.
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