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Dead again.

08 August 201203:53PMfictiongamesminecraft

Or; The Story of how me and a guy named Puddles climbed a mountain and scaled a glowing tower of doom only to be brutally disemboweled by murderous undead. This is a story about MineZ. MineZ is a Minecraft map based on the absurdly popular Arma2 mod DayZ, which is all about a properly realistic zombie apocalypse survival.

I had a sinking feeling that I'd been here before.

"Look, I've been up here before. I swear there was a weapons cache at the top. It's gotta be the same mountain."

"Uh huh. Well, there's a box here. It says 'I bet nobody will ever find my secret stash'."

"Yeah, that's it! It had three or four enchanted swords in it."

"Well, now it's full of cobwebs. And old boots."

"Oh."

I'm not exactly surprised by this. Nothing valuable hangs around long, and the top of a giant mountain in a box labeled "SECRET STASH" isn't exactly subtle.

"We could wait, see if it reappears?"

"No, I'm getting hungry. I need to head down and find some food."

It seems like I spend every waking moment scavenging for food. Nobody ever seems to have enough, except maybe bandits, who get it from killing folks like us. Just yesterday, the other two members of our group had been brutally murdered for a handful of choc-chip biscuits.Though, if I'm honest, I don't think it's been about the food for a long time. Spend long enough hunting men, and soon enough you're doing it for fun too. Circumstances do strange things to the human mind.

As I'm pondering the mysteries of the bandit soul, we're slowly working our way down the hill. I should really be paying more attention, if I'm honest. Slipping up could hurt, and the last time either of us saw a bandage was tumbling out of Jim's blood-soaked backpack as we sprinted for the hills.

Puddles holds up his hand, which brings my stumbling train of thought to a halt.

"There's something down there."

There is indeed, something down there. Something glowing and orange, at what looks like the entrance to a cave or some sort-

"Is that a pumpkin?"

"Yeah, I think it probably is."

We skid down the side of the mountain, a bit quicker than we probably should. There's something about a light in the darkness which is inherently attractive, which signals 'safety' somewhere deep in our caveman brains. It's irrational, of course, since light attracts people and people attract bandits and bandits, well...

Poor Jim...

The light turns out to be a crudely carved jack-o-lantern, sitting outside a cave. Without either of us consciously deciding, we draw our swords and venture in to the cave. It turns out to be deserted, well-lit, and entirely devoid of bandits or undead. Obviously, we leave immediately. Immediately after helping ourselves to the contents of the occupant's chest, of course. Good shovels are hard to come by these days.

As the sun begins to rise we orient ourselves north and start to walk again. Head north, that's what they say. Things are better in the north. The people are friendlier, the air is clearer, and when people murder you at least there are proper civilised folks around to murder them right back. So head north, as fast as you dare to, and for gods sake stay away from the coast.

Which is why we're so concerned when we find ourselves looking out across a large stretch of water.

"So, where to now?"

"Oh crap. Is this the coast?"

"I don't think so. We've been heading north this entire time. I think it might be the river."

"Right."

"I think we should swim across."

This sounds like an incredibly bad idea, but I wade into the icy water after him. It makes me feel faint, and just for a minute I think how nice it would be to just slip under the surface and just... sleep...

I wake up when my feet hit the bottom, and swim spluttering to the top of the water. Puddles gives me a weird look. It's been far too long since I had a decent meal, and I can't even remember the last time I slept. I'm not in any condition to be in the water. After a minute of frantic dog paddle, I drag myself on to what looks like a small island and take a minute to just breathe while Puddles does the customary yelling out "HELLO?" to see if we are, in fact, alone.

Nobody replies.

"Oh, I know where we are. This is the Spire"

"How do you know that?"

He points. I angle my head about twenty degrees upwards.

"Oh."

Despite the fact that we can hear the moans of some shambling monstrosity coming from within, something compels us to go inside. It's the same reason we exhausted ourselves hiking up a mountain, the same reason we clambered into a clearly occupied cave. I'm not sure whether it's the possibility of a hidden cache of weapons, or a larder of unsullied food stocks, or if it's just that deep down, we want to die.

I don't know what this building was before, but now it's both impressive and exceedingly dangerous. The floor all around the base is littered with rubble, and the staircase up the center of the shaft is entirely too decrepit for my liking.

"I don't like this tower. I don't like it at all".

Puddles ignores me and starts testing whether the stairs will take his weight. He takes a few tentative steps up, and then looks back at me. Despite every instinct screaming at me not to climb this decaying staircase full of disintegrating corpses, I step up after him. Because we're a team, apparently, and that's what you do when you're a team. You stay together, because even the most horrific circumstances shared are better than the crushing paranoia of being alone.

It takes us most of a day to climb the tower. The stairs are in even worse condition further up. Soon we're having to make two, three metre jumps from one step to the next. Puddles is constantly a few steps ahead of me, and the only thing keeping me going - keeping either of us going - is a handful of choc-chip cookies which Puddles dug up from the bottom of his backpack.

We stop for a breather on the third landing, which seems only marginally more stable than the stairs. As I'm finishing off a bottle of water, I hear Puddles yell.

"ZOMBIE!"

I panic. In my mad scramble back towards the more solid edges of the platform, I only just miss a gap in the floor. My axe, borrowed from a pile of belongings that no doubt once belonged to some now-starved traveller, is not so lucky. We're so far up now that I can't even hear it hit the bottom, and as you may expect, this does not improve my panic.

"Is it still there?"

"Yeah. I think it's stuck, I'm going to take it out if I can."

Zombie meat, or so I've heard, can be relatively safe to eat. It's certainly better than starvation, at any rate. Not that I've tried it. Or heard anything beyond rumour. In fact, in all my time in this hellscape, I've yet to see an actual walking corpse.

Not that it's a first I'm looking forward to. I draw my much-more-than-just- second-hand bow, and let loose as Puddles does the same. It only takes a few shots to down the zombie. I'd expected them to be tougher. It almost seems like the zombies are just an excuse for the bandits to do their thing. For us to suddenly stop acting like rational, empathetic beings just because hey, there's an apocalypse on.

These thoughts are unpleasant, and I put them out of my mind as I cram my face with faintly decayed flesh.

We keep climbing. It almost becomes a little routine, if the abject terror of jumping abyss after abyss can become routine. Eventually the staircase narrows and the silence thickens. We stop at the final turn of the staircase, with only a handful of cobwebs between us and whatever lies at the top of the spire.

"Well? How are we going to do this? There could be anything up there."

I pull the shovel off my back and clear away the cobwebs.

"I'll take this one."

I step on to the final stretch of the staircase, and then I hear it. That distinctive moan. I draw my sword and spin around and something claws at my stomach. It's excruciating for a moment, but then it starts to fade, and I know in a weird detached way that, yeah, that's probably going to kill me. Puddles is running up behind me, sword drawn. I struggle to my feet - or I try. The strength to actually do it seems to have left me about four seconds before I needed it.

I claw at the walls and flail my sword and realise that despite the recklessness and the pessimism that I actually do very much want to be alive.

And then a soggy, rotten fist makes contact with my head, and the blackness closes in.

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