Text / Bao Dong
When Liu Zhida reaches the age when he cannot get any older, that is, when all that is left is death, he will no longer see anything clearly. His eyes will be closed, but some particles still lightly penetrate his eyelids to strike his retina. Each time is like a pebble tossed into a pond, the glimmers of light like the ripples on the surface of the water. Subconsciously, he tries to block them with his hands, and yet that shimmer still continues, as if in a dream, yet he quickly awakens. The particles radiated by the G Star are coursing through his body.
He opens his eyes wide to gaze at that white star, but only sees a ring of light, shining bright before dimming, falling silent, and then shining bright once again. He knows it is the G Star falling and rising. It will be gone again in nineteen minutes.
The total disappearance of “decline” begins with generation A13.Actually, it really began with generation A1. Even in the 20th century, mankind had access to cloning and organ transplantation, but it was only with generation A13 that true bio-engineered people began to emerge. For them, decline is a disease that has already been defeated, just as their ancestors once battled against hunger, ignorance and injustice. From that moment on, mankind no longer had to worry about their bodies. Even when injured, repair became something that could be handled in an afternoon.
Certain radical groups were not satisfied with this. They were devoted to altering the body, doing such things as installing wheels or ice skates on their feet, allowing them to skate at any time. One fashion was to install bio-fueled legs and hips, allowing them to dance for twenty-four hours without tiring. I also know a girl who altered her own lenses so that everything she saw in the world radiated with a laser-like halo.
All of this made life seem to stand still. You could do whatever you wanted, so whatever you did had no meaning. Beginning with generation A13, people no longer aged, no longer died, were no longer individuals in the true sense. Their names would not change, but their ears, lungs or gills, scales, hair, stripes, or the color changing cells from squids, may have been changed only last week. If everything in your body, even your memories, was a product that could be updated at any time, then your life has in fact already ended. Even if you are still alive, you are just a thing, an object. You are no longer a person. As a person, you can be without gender, you can grow wings, and change your memories at any time, but you cannot be without death. This observation suddenly emerged in the 37th century, beginning with generation A16. It was like the rise of Christianity in the 1st century, beginning in a small region before suddenly spreading across the intersand, particularly among those people who had virtually forgotten what kind of people they used to be. They joined together to call for change in the concept of humanity: only when a person dies can it be declared that they were once people.
After this concept was encoded into law, an unforeseenconsequence emerged, which was widespread suicide, with collective suicides of various scales taking place everywhere, or falsified deaths. There was an amendment to the law: suicide in any form was unacceptable. In order to gain the identity of “person,” the death had to be from natural causes. In fact, for generation A16, for which sickness was a thing of the past and biotechnology (of which medicine is only a branch) was ubiquitous, the only so called natural death was a slow decline. That is to say, if someone wanted to become a “person,” they had to go through advanced aging and decline, until they finally died of old age.
Like Titian, Monet’s eyesight began to fail as he grew old. He had cataracts in both eyes, making the landscape appear as if through a lens filter. He was unaware of this, however, thinking only that the landscape was growing increasingly muddled, the air increasingly dirty. Sandstorm weather. But then September came around, and it didn’t get better. He started to worry. This was an uncontrollable world. The world was spiraling away from the visual order he had spent his life constructing.
If Monet had transplanted T91X002 eyes, he would not have had so much reason to worry. If he wanted to, he could have painted his life studies in the garden at night, or even dive down into the pond to watch the moonlight through the lotus leaves. If he got the T92X002-1 model eyes, he would have been able to see ultraviolet and infrared light, but I don’t think he would have enjoyed such monochromatic scenes.
Someone told me he once saw a singular blue, only blue, as if all the other colors had been removed. In such laboratory conditions, seeing is no longer how we often describe it. It becomes a purely physical, and thus purely conceptual world. Pure things can only be crazy things. That was a crazy blue.
Eyes and Brain
Liu Zhida is from the second generation to accept this concept of “humanity,” so since his birth, he has always kept his body in its original state. Of course, his lungs, his heart, part of his brain and some of his ribs have been replaced, but that was a traffic accident, so he legally used organ cloning. But his eyes have never had a problem. At this moment, those particles are penetrating eyes that belong entirely to him, even if what he sees has been corrected by his external brain.
After his cataract surgery, Monet regained the ability to see green, purple, light red and dark red, and he was able to paint again as before. He corrected his eyes based on the standards provided by his memory. But what do you do if you have to correct your eyes and your brain?
In the 19th century, physicists began to posit an ultimate theory. They envisioned the world as a massive, complex clock, with every gear in the back connected to another gear. Once one gear moved, the rest of the watch would work as intended. At that time, doctors likewise saw the body as a tiny world, each organ possessing its function, not unlike the gears in the clock of the world, but soon they found the appendix to be useless, sometimes even harmful until it was removed. This inspired physicists to search for the appendix of the universe.
“Intersand” is a term that transcends the “universe” and the “world,” often used to describe the whole. Its basic meaning is thus: when you move from one place to another, pass from one point in time to another point in time, or leap from one thought to another—sometimes, when saying one thing, you suddenly think of something else to say—the connections that serendipitously form between these things are what is grasped by the term “intersand.”
A person’s passage from birth to death is also called “intersand,” though people aren’t yet accustomed to using it as such. “Intersand” is more of a philosophical term, though it is often used among physicists as well, particularly to describe jumps from one galaxy to another. On DA15rt171 Boulevard, there is a bar called the Intersand Club. Physicists often gather here when they aren’t at the quantum transmitter. It seems that they were the ones who invented this term “intersand.” They call the points on the transmitter “grains.”
As to why they use the term “intersand,” no one really knows. It is probably from the “grains of sand in the Ganges”…
Books for Physicists
On his voyages, Liu Zhida often thinks about the stories of Jorge Luis Borges, particularly the ones that are infinitely nested in each other. They are like his intersand leaps. Quantum transmission often has him sliding through the immense gravity of planets. In the interval between one wave of gravity and the next, he penetrates the field at just the right time, slipping through the spatial threshold. Sometimes he feels like he’s a grain of sand slipping through one’s fingers.
Another writer deeply rooted in his psyche is Immanuel Kant, perhaps owing to his mother’s influence. For physicists, Kant’s theories on the unknowable provided a framework for understanding the intersand: “It is like a clump of sand. You clutch it, and it takes on the shape of your palm. You release it, and it takes on the shape of the air. Drop it on the ground, and it becomes part of the soil.” When he finished writing this sentence, he sprinkled the page with sand with great satisfaction to dry out the ink. Interestingly, the people at the Intersand Club think that they mainly drew inspiration from his nebular hypothesis.
Chung Ming is a Chinese person mentioned by Jorge Luis Borges. At the time, the Great Khan of the Yuan dynasty was searching for a blue swan. The prime minister sent out an edict, and all the heroes, priests, sailors, wanderers and scholars in the land heard the news.
But no one had seen a swan like this. The Khan had heard of its blueness from a wandering poet. “That blue is like the blue seen by a newborn when it first opens its eyes, or the last blue seen by someone about to die in a desert.” Chung Ming writes, “The Khan was infatuated with this linguistic blue, and had the wandering poet describe it to him over and over, day after day,” until the poet suddenly died.
The listless Khan began to grow thin, and his anxious prime minister sent out an edict: the childless Khan will make whoever finds the blue swan his heir. All the heroes, priests, sailors, wanderers and scholars in the land heard the news.
Finally, one day, a guard reported to the prime minister that a young man claimed to have found the blue swan, and was waiting outside the Forbidden City. But once brought into the Forbidden City, the young man was never seen again. In fact, “The Khan was already dead. The generals and ministers planned to install the prime minister, who had wielded the real power for years.” Chung Ming continues, “The swan never existed, nor did that blue.” It was a complete fabrication.
The G Star
No one knows where Liu Zhida went, so they all assumed he was dead. From the data we were able to retrieve, Liu Zhida’s last leap was near the G Star. The G Star is actually a massive galaxy in the process of collapsing. The physicists who have travelled there say the environment is very harsh, with neutron stars and black holes, often swallowing the quantum trajectories whole and breaking their intersand framework, forcing them to completely redraw their “grain” map.
If an intersand stop is broken during the process of quantum transmission, then the person being transmitted, and all of his information, will be erased as if he never existed at all. But Liu Zhida still persists in people’s memories, showing that he did not die in transmission. Yet he has not appeared since. He may be still alive, he may be dead, or, in the terms favored by the physicists: information about his existence is certain.
The Jellyfish People
As for those people who fear death and refuse to age, they are called “jellyfish people.” They restore themselves every thirty years. Some do it in less than twenty, while the most extreme do it every year. When you see someone on their own, skin so white they don’t even look human, they probably just finished restoration. According to the current law, “jellyfish people” do not enjoy certain rights, being that they are not entirely people. For example, they are not allowed to form families, much less have children. That is because when someone chooses not to die, they should lose the right to continue life through reproduction. Perhaps they don’t need it anymore. When the family of a “jellyfish person” dies out, they can only live alone, until gradually, people forget them, and they forget people.
It is difficult to imagine their lives, but it is said that they are humble and have many insights. After all, some of them have lived for centuries. They have witnessed things that others can only know, but never truly grasp, such as some changes over the centuries that they find entirely meaningless, people leaping from one idea to another, completely senseless arguments, banning one thing, only to ban the opposite later. Only when you reach a certain age can you clearly see the meaninglessness at the essence of history, and fall silent.
But there was somethingthat the “jellyfish people” were not expecting: there are limits to memory. Those “jellyfish people” who lived long enough gradually began to forget things from centuries before, even forgetting where they came from. They were just living, but they would forget who was doing the living. Their bodies may have been the same, but the memories stored in these bodies gradually changed. Some would even come to think that they were someone else. Later on, each time they restored, they would be like a different person. Actually, it is only in recent years that people took to calling them the “jellyfish people.” It is said there is a jellyfish called T. dohrnii that can revert to its juvenile stage and grow again. They endlessly repeat this cycle.