Danica Davidson is a woman with a mission: To promote literacy to young people who love Minecraft. She’s generously allowed us to publish a 2-chapter excerpt from one of her novels, An Unofficial Gamer’s Quest: Escape from the Overworld.
We also encourage you to head on over to MMORPG.com to read our exclusive interview with Ms. Davidson to learn more about her love of gaming and her quest for literacy.
The monsters came out whenever it got dark. I didn’t realize the sun was setting until it was too late.
I had gotten totally caught up in what I was doing: building my very first tree house. When you’re the son of the man who’s the best builder around, it means you have a lot to prove. I was Stevie, from a long line of Steves, in a land where just about everyone was named Steve. Here’s the thing, though: My dad is The Steve.
No one calls him that to his face, but everyone knows him, and everyone knows I am his son. My dad had forged a diamond sword when he was twelve, only one year older than I am now. That sword was so good he still uses it to this day to slay zombies, and he is known as the best zombie slayer around.
He has the greatest farm in the area too, with wheat, pumpkins, carrots, and everything else. He likes to go mining and isn’t scared of going down into the fiery realm of the Nether, even though there are even worse monsters there and no sunlight to protect you from them.
And then there’s everything Dad has built. The giant farmhouse. The barn. The summer home. The winter home. You get the idea. All the houses had iron doors to keep monsters out, plus torches to keep them from spawning near us. My dad also tamed an ocelot he found, making her into a sweet cat, because cats are good at keeping creepers away.
I would help Dad farm and go with him to the Nether, but when it came to making and handling things on my own, that was different. My dad would brag, “Someday, Stevie is going to be a great builder.” But it didn’t feel like he was encouraging me or anything. It felt more like he was saying, “Stevie’s going to be a great builder because he has no other option except to live in my shadow.”
One thing my dad had never built was a tree house, so I decided that would be where I’d have to show off my skills. The first thing I decided to build was my own stone tools. They wouldn’t be as cool as a diamond sword, but everyone had to start somewhere.
I picked a tree that was just out of sight from the biggest house Dad had built, which was the house we were living in at the time. I figured this gave me enough distance so that it was my tree, but it was still not too far from Dad or home.
Next, I walked all over and gathered wood from oak trees. My dad had a whole stockpile of obsidian sitting around that could be used for building — though I knew better than to touch that. Obsidian was really difficult to get, so I knew Dad would’t want me to use it after all the hard work he put into collecting it. Besides, I wanted to show Dad I could do everything on my own. I didn’t even buy anything from the village because trading emeralds for supplies would have made it easier for me.
After I’d gotten my handmade supplies together, I went out to the tree and made a ladder out of sticks. The next step was to clear out the leaves in the tree so that there would be room for my tree house. Once I had the space in the tree, I started to set up the blocks for the floor. Block by block, that’s how I did it. After the floor was done, I got to work on setting up blocks for the walls. I wasn’t a big fan of heights, so I didn’t put the house too high into the tree.
As I built the tree house, I had lots of time to think about things. Like how the tree house was turning out okay, even though I’d been really nervous about it. I’d finally jumped from making small items to making something bigger — something so big you could actually live in it.
Maybe I could get some of the kids from the village to come over and hang out with me. Whenever Dad and I went to the village to trade, I would look for the kids my age and we’d play games like putting saddles on pigs and having little pig races. But the kids never came to visit me. It was lonely out here in the country. It would also be great if Dad could hang out in my tree house with me, and for once it would be a home I built, not him.
When it started getting difficult to see my work, I realized I’d made a major mistake. One that could be deadly. I spent so much time thinking and building that I wasn’t watching the sun. It was slipping down toward the horizon, the sky was going gray.
When the sun went away, monsters — or mobs — would spawn. They liked to seek out people, especially ones out in the dark, away from everyone else.
Very quickly I made my way toward the ladder and began to hurry down it.
It’s okay, I told myself. I knew Dad would be furious if I got home after dark, but what really mattered was that I would get home. And I will, I thought. Just because I couldn’t see home didn’t mean it wasn’t nearby…I’ll make it, I told myself, I’ll make it.
As soon as I was partway down the ladder, I saw that I wouldn’t make it.
On the ground, just a few feet away, stood a creeper. Creepers may look harmless with their armless bodies and their frowny faces, but don’t let looks fool you: they’re some of the most feared mobs in the Overworld because of the way they can silently sneak up on you and because of the scary amount of destruction they can cause.
I was hanging from the ladder, frantically trying to grab some sort of tool out of the pouch I had tied around my waist. I had exactly 1.5 seconds to fight the creeper, or else it would explode.
In my panic, I couldn’t even lift the lid of my pouch. But 1.5 seconds gave me enough time to realize how bad this was, try to do something, recognize there wasn’t going to be enough time, and open my mouth to shout, “No!” as if a creeper has ever listened to a human.
The little green mob looked up at me, started shaking and shivering, and then everything exploded.
I fell back against the ground with the wind knocked out of me. My pouch flew through the air and landed with a thud somewhere off in the darkness. The creeper was gone, dead. They always die when they explode, and they love to take your work with them. Overhead I could see the floor of my tree house break into pieces.
I lay there, trying to catch my breath. It wa full night now, the square moon overhead. I didn’t want to admit it, but I wished Dad was around to help me. But then again, I was glad he wasn’t, because I didn’t want him to see my ruined tree house. Tomorrow I would have to start over on my building. No good creepers!
I struggled to get up but I was too weak. It was going to be a little bit before I’d be able to sit up and limp my way back to the house.
Dad would never give sympathy, even though I could have really used some right then. He’d never had any of his work blown up by a creeper.
I shut my eyes against the square moon and breathed deeply. I needed food and milk to feel better, and then a good night’s sleep. I didn’t want to think about how much I’d been hurt. I especially didn’t want to think about how it was still dark. Or that my tools were off in the distance and I was now weaponless. Or that home was as far away as ever. Instead of all the scary things, I thought about how I would get back to work on my building in the morning. Lots of people in the Overworld have had their hard work blown up thanks to a sneaky creeper, so maybe the next time I went to the village, I would tell the other kids about it and we’d bond and I’d make real friends.
And that’s when I realized I wasn’t alone. In the distance, I could hear the zombies moaning.
An Unofficial Gamer’s Quest: Escape from the Underworld, copyright 2014 by Danica Davidson. All rights reserved.
Header image credit Jennifer Hecht