Minecraft: The Island
title page for Minecraft: The Island

This ebook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorized distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

Epub ISBN: 9781473544376

Version 1.0

Published by Century 2017

1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2

Minecraft: The Island book is a work of fiction. Names, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, places, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2017 by Mojang AB and Mojang Synergies AB.
Minecraft is a trademark or registered trademark of Mojang Synergies AB.
Book design by Elizabeth A. D. Eno
Cover art and design: Ian Wilding

All rights reserved.

Published in the United Kingdom by Century, an imprint of Penguin Random House UK, London.

Published in the United States by Del Rey, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

The Penguin Random House Group Limited
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, SW1V 2SA


Penguin logo

Century is part of the Penguin Random House group of companies whose addresses can be found at global.penguinrandomhouse.com

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

HB ISBN 9781780897745
TPB ISBN 9781780897752


About the Book
About the Author
Also by Max Brooks
Title Page
Chapter 1: Never Give Up
Chapter 2: Panic Drowns Thought
Chapter 3: Don’t Assume Anything
Chapter 4: Details Make the Difference
Chapter 5: Be Grateful for What You Have
Chapter 6: Overconfidence
Chapter 7: Take Life in Steps
Chapter 8: The Way
Chapter 9: Friends Keep You Sane
Chapter 10: Nothing Clears the Mind like Sleep
Chapter 11: Courage Is a Full-Time Job
Chapter 12: Risk and Reward
Chapter 13: When the World Changes …
Chapter 14: Always Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Chapter 15: Take Care of Your Environment so It Can Take Care of You
Chapter 16: Everything Has a Price
Chapter 17: It’s Not Failure That Matters, but How You Recover
Chapter 18: When Trying to Tell Yourself Something, Listen!
Chapter 19: Books Make the World Bigger
Chapter 20: Revenge Hurts Only You
Chapter 21: Knowledge, like a Seed, Needs the Right Time to Bloom
Chapter 22: The End and the Beginning
What I’ve Learned from the World of Minecraft

To Michelle and Henry,
who keep me from being
an island.

Image Missing



I wouldn’t expect you to believe the world I’m about to describe, although your reading these words means you’re already here. Maybe you’ve been in this world for a while but just discovered the island. Or maybe, like it was for me, the island is your introduction to this world. If you’re alone, confused, and scared out of your mind, then you’re exactly where I was on my first day. This world can seem like a maze and, sometimes, like a bully. But the truth is that it’s a teacher and its trials are just lessons in disguise.

That’s why I’ve left this book behind—so my journey can help you with yours.

Image Missing


I woke up underwater, deep underwater, and this was my first conscious thought. Cold. Dark. Where was the surface? I kicked in all directions, trying to find my way up. I twisted and turned, and then I saw it: a light. Dim, pale, and far away.

Instinctively I shot for it, and quickly noticed that the water around me was growing brighter. That had to be the surface, the sun.

But how could the sun be … square? I must be seeing things. Maybe some trick of the water.

Who cares! How much air do I have left? Just get to it. Swim!

My lungs ballooned, little bubbles escaping from my lips, racing me for the distant light. I kicked and clawed the water like a caged animal. Now I could see it, a ceiling of ripples coming closer with each desperate stroke. Closer, but still so far away. My body ached, my lungs burned.

Swim! SWIM!


My body writhed as a sudden jolt of pain shot from toes to eyes. My mouth opened in a choked scream. I reached for the glow, grabbing for breath, for life.

I exploded into the cool, clean air.

I coughed. I choked. I wheezed. I laughed.


For a moment, I just savored the experience, closing my eyes and letting the sun warm my face. But when I opened my eyes, I couldn’t believe them. The sun was square! I blinked hard. The clouds, too? Instead of round puffy cotton balls, these thin, rectangular objects floated lazily above me.

You’re still seeing things, I thought. You hit your head when you fell off the boat and now you’re a little dazed.

But did I fall off a boat? I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t remember anything, in fact; how I got here, or even where “here” was.

“Help me!” I shouted, scanning the horizon for a ship or a plane or even a speck of land. “Please, somebody! Anybody! HELP!” All I got was silence. All I could see was water and sky.

I was alone.


Something splashed inches from my face, a flash of tentacles and a thick, black and grayish head.

I yelped, kicking backward. It looked like a squid, but square like everything else in this strange place. The tentacles turned to me, opening wide. I gazed right into a yawning red mouth ringed with white razor teeth.

“Get outta here!” I hollered. Mouth dry, heart pounding, I splashed clumsily away from the creature. I didn’t have to. At that moment, the tentacles closed, blasting the squid in the other direction.

I floated there, frozen, treading water for a few seconds, until the animal disappeared into the deep. That’s when I let out a long, throaty, tension-draining “ughhh.”

I took another deep breath, then another, then a whole lot more. Finally, my heart settled down, my limbs stopped jerking, and, for the first time since I woke up, my brain switched on.

“Okay,” I said aloud. “You’re way out in a lake or ocean or whatever. No one’s coming to save you, and you can’t tread water forever.”

I did a slow, 360-degree turn, hoping to see some thread of coastline I’d missed before. Nothing. In desperation I tried one last scan of the sky. No planes, not even a thin white trail. What sky doesn’t have those trails? One with a square sun and rectangle clouds.

The clouds.

I noticed they were all moving steadily in one direction, away from the rising sun. Due west.

“As good as anywhere,” I said, giving another deep sigh, and started swimming slowly west.

It wasn’t much to go on, but I figured the wind might help me along a little bit, or at least wouldn’t slow me down. And if I went north or south, the breeze might slowly blow me in an arc so I’d end up swimming in circles. I didn’t know if that was really true. I still don’t. I mean, c’mon, I’d just woken up, probably with some kind of massive head injury, at the bottom of an ocean, and was trying really, really hard not to end up back there.

Just keep going, I told myself. Focus on what’s ahead. I began to notice how weird my “swimming” was; not the stroke, pause, stroke motion, but the sense of gliding across the water with my limbs along for the ride.

Head injury, I thought, trying not to imagine how serious that injury might be.

One good thing, I noticed, was that I didn’t seem to be getting tired. Isn’t swimming supposed to be exhausting? Don’t your muscles burn and quit after a while? Adrenaline, I thought, and tried not to imagine that emergency gas tank running out.

But it would. Sooner or later, I’d lose steam, cramp up, go from swimming to treading water, then from treading water to floating. Of course, I’d try to rest, bobbing up and down to conserve energy, but how long could I keep that up? How long before the cold of the water finally got to me? How long before, teeth chattering, body shivering, I finally sank back down into the darkness?

“Not yet!” I blurted out. “I’m not giving up yet!”

Shouting out loud was enough to perk me up. “Keep focused! Keep going!”

And I did. I kept swimming with all my might. I also tried to be über-aware of my surroundings. Hopefully I would spot the mast of a ship or the shadow of a helicopter, but at the very least, it would take my mind off my current predicament!

I noticed that the water was calm, and this gave me something to feel good about. No waves meant no resistance, which meant I could swim farther, right? I also noticed that the water was fresh, not salty, which meant that I had to be in a lake instead of an ocean, and lakes are smaller than oceans. Okay, a big lake is just as dangerous as an ocean, but c’mon, you got a problem with me trying to look on the bright side?

I also noticed that I could see the bottom. It was deep—don’t get me wrong, you could sink a pretty decent office building and never see the top—but it wasn’t bottomless like the ocean is supposed to be. I could also see it wasn’t level. There were tons of little valleys and hills.

That was when, off to my right, I noticed that one of the hills had grown so tall that its top disappeared beyond the horizon. Did it break the surface? I turned north, northwest, I guess, and swam in a straight line for the hill.

And before I knew it, the hill grew into an underwater mountain. And a few seconds later, I actually thought I saw its top sprout above the water.

That’s gotta be land, I thought, trying not to get my hopes up. It could be a mirage though, a trick of the light or some mist or …

That’s when I saw the tree. At least I thought it was a tree, because, from that distance, all I could make out was a dark green angular mass perched atop a dark brown line.

Excitement propelled me like a torpedo. Eyes locked forward, I soon saw other trees dotting a tan beach. And then, suddenly, the green-brown slope of a hill.

“Land!” I shouted. “LAAAND!”

I’d made it! Warm, firm, solid ground! A few strokes and I’d be there. A wave of total relief washed over me … and just like a real wave it washed right back out.

I barely had a second to celebrate before the island came into full view. By the time I reached the shore, I was just as confused as the moment I’d woken up.

The island was square. Or, rather, it was made of squares. Everything: sand, dirt, rocks, even those things I first thought were trees. Everything was a combination of cubes. “Okay,” I said, refusing to believe what I was seeing. “Just need a minute is all, just a minute.” Standing in waist-high water, breathing, blinking, I waited for my eyes to clear. I was sure that any minute, all those harsh right angles would return to soft, curvy normalness.

They didn’t.

“Gotta be that head wound,” I said, wading ashore. “No problem. Just make sure you’re not bleeding too bad and—”

Instinctively, my hand went up to find the supposed injury, and as it came up in front of my face, I gasped.

“Wha …?” There was a fleshy cube at the end of my rectangular arm, a cube that wouldn’t open no matter how hard I tried. “Where’s my hand!?” I shouted, my voice rising in panic.

Head swimming, throat closing, I looked nervously down at the rest of me.

Brick-shaped feet, rectangular legs, a shoebox-shaped torso, all covered in painted-on clothes.

“What’s wrong with me!?” I hollered to the empty beach.

“This isn’t real!” I screamed, running back and forth, trying to tear the painted clothes off my body.

Hyperventilating, I rushed back to the water, desperate for the calming reflection of my face. Nothing greeted me. “Where am I?” I shouted to the shimmering sea. “What is this place?”

I thought of the water, of how I’d woken up … but had I? “This is a dream!” I said, relief breaking into my panicked voice, reaching for the only thing I could think of. “Of course!” And for a second I almost pulled myself together. “Just a crazy dream, and soon you’ll wake up and …”

And what? I tried to imagine waking up in my home, in my life, but it was all gone. I could remember the world, the real world of soft, round shapes, of people and houses and cars and lives. I just couldn’t remember me in it.

My vision narrowed as an invisible fist closed around my lungs. “Who am I?”

Tension pulsed up through the veins in my neck. I could feel the skin on my face, the roots of my teeth. Dizzy, nauseous, I staggered back against the base of the hill. What was my name? What did I look like? Was I old? Was I young?

Looking down at my boxy body, I couldn’t determine anything. Was I a man or a woman? Was I even human?

“What am I?”

The thread snapped. My mind collapsed.

Where? Who? What? And now the final question.

“Why!?” I screeched up at the bright square sun. “Why can’t I remember? Why am I different? Why am I here? Why is all of this happening to me? WHYYY!?”

All I got back was silence. No birds, no waves, not even the rustle of wind through those angular excuses for trees. Nothing but pure, punishing silence.

And then …


The sound was so small I wasn’t sure I’d heard it.


I definitely heard it that time, and felt it, too. It was coming from inside me. My tummy was rumbling.

I’m hungry.

That was all I needed to break my downward spiral. Something to do, something simple and clear to focus on, and next to breathing, there’s nothing clearer or simpler than eating.

GRRRP, growled my stomach, as if to say, “I’m waiting.”

I shook my head violently, trying to get the blood back in my cheeks, and looked down at my body to see if I had anything to eat. I’d been so shocked the first time I’d seen myself that I might have missed something earlier. Maybe I had a waterproof phone in my pocket, or even a wallet with my ID.

I didn’t have either, or even pockets. But what I did find was a thin belt, painted the same color as my pants—another reason I’d missed it the first time—with four flat pouches on either side. Each pouch was empty, but while going through them, I suddenly realized I could feel the slight pressure of something resting gently on my back.

I call it a “backpack” but it didn’t have any straps or hooks or anything that should have held it in place. It was just stuck there, and like the belt and my painted-on clothes, I couldn’t take it off. All I could do was reach back and swing it to the front.

“Crazy dream,” I said, coming back to the only mental crutch I had. The pack’s inside was lined with twenty-seven small pouches, just like those on the belt, and also totally empty.

So much for taking inventory, I thought, as the feeling of hunger grew constant. That meant foraging for food. I looked around for something, anything, that looked remotely edible. At first, the only thing I could find appeared to be one-block-high blades of rectangular grass. They grew in ones and twos on the green-covered dirt behind the beach. I reached down to one sprouting right at my feet, but somehow I couldn’t pick it up. Instead I just swiped clumsily in a rapid punching motion.

Anxiety welled up in me again. It was one thing to have a strange-looking body, but a whole new crisis to discover that that body wouldn’t obey! I tried again, missing the grass, and again, and when I finally connected, my fist smashed my target to oblivion. And I do mean oblivion. The tall green stalks didn’t just fall over or break, they disappeared. One quick crunching noise and poof, gone.

“Aw, c’mon!” I pouted, looking at this angular appendage. “Just work, will ya?” For some reason, pleading with my hand wasn’t the answer. Neither was trying to repeat the same fruitless motion on another identical clump of grass.

I’ve heard, although I can’t remember where, that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result. I don’t know if that’s true for some people, but for me, it was pretty darn close.

“Just work!” I grunted angrily, punching the grass like it had swung first. “Work. Work. WORK!” It was starting again, the mental slide. My mind was balancing on a thin tightrope at that moment, and I really needed some kind of win.

I didn’t get one, exactly, but I did break the cycle by accidentally, literally, breaking the ground. On the fourth try, I hit so hard and for so long that I didn’t only destroy the little green blades, but also knocked away a whole block of dirt beneath them.

“Whoa …” I stammered, frustration replaced with curiosity.

At first I didn’t see the block, just the block-sized hole it’d disappeared into. I peered into the divot and saw a cube floating at the bottom—actually hovering off the ground—and much smaller than it had been. I reached in to pick it up and didn’t get halfway there before it flew up at me.

I stumbled back with a surprised “whoa!” and looked down at the cube in my hand. It felt like dirt, coarse and dry with a few little pebbles in it. I tried squeezing my hand and felt it give without crumbling. I brought it up to my face and sniffed. It smelled just like dirt.

I sniffed again, and suddenly felt comforted. Everything was alien up till that point; everything around me, including me. This wasn’t. This one sensation was familiar. I could feel my neck muscles relaxing, my jaw unclenching. Hey, I’m not embarrassed to say that I took another four or five good, long, tranquilizing whiffs of that dirt block, and I’m also not embarrassed to say that in between each inhale, I glanced over my shoulder just to see that no one was looking.

I won’t say the experience made everything better, but it did give me the confidence to try opening my fingers to drop the block on the ground. And it did. And I felt even better.

“Well, all right,” I exhaled, “At least I have the power to drop things.” Not a huge win, I know, but something. Some tiny bit of control.

I watched the little dirt cube hover at my feet for a second, then reached out to pick it up again. I didn’t flinch the second time it jumped to meet me.

“Okay,” I said, taking a cautious breath. “If I can drop you, maybe I can …” I moved the cube down to one of the pouches on my belt, and sighed deeply as it obediently dropped inside.

“So,” I said, smiling down at the belt, “stuff—well, dirt, at least—shrinks small enough for you to carry it. Weird, but maybe useful in this w … dream.” I couldn’t say “world” yet. I was still way too fragile.

GRRRP, bubbled my stomach, reminding me it was still there. “Right,” I said, and took the cube back out of my belt. “And since I can’t eat you, and can’t think of a reason to carry you around …”

I held the shrunken box out to the hole where I’d dug it up. At maybe a pace or two away, it jumped right out of my hand, swelled back up to its original shape, and snapped into place as if nothing had happened. Well, almost nothing; digging it out had taken off its green cover.

“Hmmm,” I hummed and tried digging it up again. Sure enough, a few punches drove it right into my hand. When I put it down this time, I tried setting it next to the hole instead of inside it. Again it sprang back to its normal size, sitting securely on the ground.

I hummed again, my newfound calm allowing the wheels to turn. Something about setting the block down in a new place reminded me of a buried memory. I don’t think it was a memory specific to me, but rather to the not-dream world. Something about little kids playing with blocks, making things, building.

“If everything here is made of blocks,” I said to the newly replanted cube, “and all these blocks keep their shape, could I stack them into things I want to build?”

GRRRP, came a particularly angry protest from down south.

“Right,” I told my stomach, and turning to the block, said, “Maybe later. I gotta eat.”

I figured I’d give the grass one more try before moving on. I’m glad I did. On this fifth attempt, the vanishing clump left a collection of hovering seeds. Finally, I thought and tried picking them up. One weird minor quirk of this dream was that I could only grab all six seeds at the same time, and wasn’t able to hold them individually. Another weird, and ridiculously major, quirk was that I wasn’t able to consume them. My hand just froze there, inches from my mouth, and wouldn’t let me eat.

“Really?” I said, and tried to move my face to my hand instead. That didn’t work either, like an invisible force field was holding them apart.

“Really,” I repeated sarcastically, feeling all the frustration and anger rising up. “Fine!” My arm cocked to throw the seeds away.

What stopped me was the block of dirt I’d just been experimenting with. When I’d set it down a few minutes ago, the green cover top was missing. Now it was back. The turfy layer had re-grown.

That fast? I thought, looking down at the seeds. Do all plants grow that fast? Maybe I could try planting these seeds.

And boy did I try! I tried every way I could think of. I dropped the seeds back onto the ground, but they just hovered. I punched them into the soil, but that just unearthed another block. And after setting that block down, in a new position aboveground, I even tried pushing the seeds into the side. Nothing worked.

“Why won’t …” I hissed through clenched teeth, then stopped myself. Going down the “why” path would lead me right back to a full-blown meltdown.

“Keep going,” I said with a huff. “Don’t give up.”

Dropping the seeds into a belt pouch, I desperately looked around for another option. Any other food source, any distraction …

The trees!

I ran over to the closest one, trying to peel away sections of the bark. Do people eat bark? Maybe, but I couldn’t. My hands wouldn’t let me grab the light-and-dark-striped brown cover. They also wouldn’t let me climb the waist-thick trunk up to the square bunches of small, mini-cubed leaves.

I didn’t give up; I couldn’t afford to. “If this is a dream,” I said, “then I can just fly up and get some!”

Fist raised, eyes up, I leapt into the air … and came down just as quick. But in that crucial moment, suspended in midair, something truly magical happened. I tried punching at the leaves above me, and even though they were a block or two away, I felt my fist impact.

I began hesitantly striking up above me. “I can reach?”

Sure enough, though my actual arm didn’t stretch, from four full block lengths away I could still hit the dappled cubes above my head. “I can reach!” I shouted and began bashing at the leaves. Creeping insanity faded with each empowering punch. “Yeah!” I belted as the first cube vanished, dropping a red, shiny, semi-rounded fruit into my hand. “THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about!”

And this time, my body let me eat. Maybe that’s the key, I thought, crunching on the fruit’s crispy sweetness and feeling the juice run down my throat. Maybe my hand will only let me eat what’s edible.

It might not have looked exactly like an apple, but it tasted just like one. And if I thought the scent of the earth was comforting, this new sensation was so overpowering, I actually felt a sting at the corners of my eyes.

“Keep going,” I said as the entire apple disappeared into my welcoming stomach. “Never give up!”

Without realizing it, I’d just learned something. Call it a mantra or a life lesson or whatever, but they were words to live by, and they’d be the first of many on this strange and wonderful journey: Never give up.

Image Missing

Using my new “power,” I knocked out the other leaf blocks on the rest of the trees. I not only came away with two more apples, but a critical discovery about my belt and pack.

It happened right after the first apple, when I was boxing the leaves. Instead of dropping fruit, I got a small sapling. “On strike again?” I asked my frozen hand, and dropped the mini-tree into my belt. Seconds later, when I got a second one, I absentmindedly stuffed it into the same pouch. That’s when I realized that they’d not only shrunk, but flattened and stacked themselves together like playing cards. “Well now,” I said with a smile, “this might actually be helpful.”

That turned out to be an understatement. By the time I’d finished stripping all three trees, I managed to stack twelve compressed saplings in just one compartment. And, I might add, at zero weight!

Looking over the additional pouches in my pack, I thought, I can carry a whole warehouse worth of stuff! Which means …

“Which means,” I said, scowling at the belt, my mood deflating like stacked saplings, “Until I find stuff worth carrying, you’re as helpful as a wind-powered fan.”

There’s gotta be more apple trees, I thought, staring up at the cliff. Through panicked eyes, it’d initially looked like an impassable barrier. Now, calmer, confident, and well-fed, I could see that it was more like a steep slope than a sheer wall.

Who knows what else is over there, I thought, hiking up square dirt cubes. If I’d only thought clearly instead of being such a total dweeb, I wouldn’t have trapped myself on this side of the island in the first place.

In fact, maybe it wasn’t an island after all. Maybe this beach was the start of a whole continent! Don’t get me wrong, I hadn’t abandoned the notion of all this being just a dream. But still, part of me couldn’t help wishing to come up over the top of the hill to see a ranger station, or a town, or a giant city, or …

There wasn’t.

I stood on the even, green summit and stared with crushing disappointment at the rest of an uninhabited island.

The land stretched out like a claw, two wooded pincers nearly enclosing a round, shallow lagoon. I couldn’t judge how large the island was. By that point, I still wasn’t very good at measuring by blocks. But it couldn’t have been too big because I could definitely see the end of it under the late afternoon sun. And with the sinking orange square, so went my spirits as well.

Just like in the water, I thought I was alone.

And just like in the water, I was wrong.

“Moo.” The sound made me jump.

“Wha …?” I said, nervously looking all around. “Who … Who’s there?”

“Moo,” came the sound again, pulling my eyes to the base of the hill. It was an animal, black and white, with a body as rectangular as its surroundings.

I picked my way down the western slope, which was easier and more gradual than the treacherous eastern side, and walked right up to the fearless creature. Studying it more closely, I could see that it wasn’t entirely black and white. Gray horns, pink inside the ears, and a pink shallow sack below the stomach …

“You gotta be a cow,” I said, and the “moo” I got was the best sound I’d heard all day. “You don’t know how happy I am to see you,” I sighed. “I mean, hey, I know it’s still just a dream and all, but it just feels so good not to be—” the word stuck in my throat, stinging my nose and eyes—“alone.”

“Baa,” answered the cow.

“Wait, what?” I asked, stepping closer. “Are you, like, bilingual or …”

“Baa,” said the animal, but not the one in front of me. I looked up and past the cow, toward the sound’s true owner. It was rectangular—duh—but a little shorter and practically all black.

I’d almost missed it in the dim light of the early evening. Now, as I approached the darkening woods, another animal, as white as the clouds above, stepped out from behind its black twin. Despite their straight, flat outlines, I could see the barest details of woolly coats.

“You’re sheep,” I said, smiling, and reached out to pet one. I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t mean to punch.

The animal yelped, flashed pinkish red, and took off running through the wood. “Oh, sorry!” I called after it. “Sorry little sheep!” I felt so bad that I turned to its unfazed friend and babbled, “I didn’t mean it, really. I still don’t know how to use this body, ya know?”

“Cluckcluckcluck,” came an answer to my left. Two small birds, each about a block high, were pecking the nearby ground. They had short, skinny legs, plump bodies covered with white feathers, and small heads ending in flat orange beaks.

“I’m not sure if you’re chickens,” I told them. “You do have kinda duckish features.” They glanced up at me for a second and clucked. “But you sound like chickens,” I continued, “so I guess calling you chickens makes more sense than … chicke-ducks.”

The word gave me a little chuckle, which quickly became a real guffaw. It felt good to laugh, to let out all the crazy tension of the day.

That’s when I heard a new sound.


It was a throaty, phlegmy gargle that sent chills up my spine. I looked all around, trying to figure out the source. Sound on this island seemed to be coming from every direction. I stood there listening, wishing the chickens would shut up.

Then I smelled it. Mold and rot. Like a dead rat in an old sock. I didn’t see the figure until it was only a dozen or so paces away. At first I thought it was another person, dressed just like me, and I took an automatic step forward.

Then, just as instinctively, I stopped and backed away. Its clothes were ragged and filthy. Its flesh was a mottled green. Its eyes, if you could call them eyes, were nothing but lifeless black points in a flat, unmoving face. Memories flooded my mind, images of creatures I’d known from stories but had never seen in person. And now here it was, approaching with outstretched arms.

This was a zombie!

I tried to retreat, bumping against a tree. The zombie closed. I dodged. Rotted fists smashed into my chest, throwing me back. Pain shot through my body. I gasped. It lunged. I fled.

Numb with fear, I sprinted for the hill. I wasn’t thinking, wasn’t planning. Terror drove my every step. Something “clacked” in the darkness behind me, followed by a noise like whipped air. Something smacked into the tree in front of me. A feather-tipped, quivering stick. An arrow! Was the zombie armed? I hadn’t noticed. I just kept running.

Something red flashed to my right: a cluster of eyes followed by a clipped hiss. I scampered up the slope of the hill, glancing back only when I was at the summit. In the pale light of a rising square moon, I could see that the zombie was still coming. It was already at the bottom of the slope and beginning to climb up after me.

Throat closing in fright, I tore my way down the eastern cliff. I slipped, fell to the bottom, and heard a sickening crack.

“Rrrr,” I hissed as bolts of agony stabbed through my ankle.

Where to go? What to do? Should I jump back into the ocean and try to swim away? I froze at the edge of the blackened water. What if that squid was still out there, and what if it’d gotten hungry?

Another moan echoed across the starry night. I turned to see the zombie’s head poke over the top of the hill.

Frantically I looked for somewhere to go. Someplace to hide.

My eyes flicked back and forth, settling on the single block of earth I’d dug out earlier in the day. From it came the spark of a desperate idea. Digging!

As the zombie started down the slope, I ran to the cliff below it and furiously tore into the earth. One-two-three-four punches and the first block in front of me came away. One-two-three-four and the one behind it popped free.

I could hear the ghoul approaching, each groan growing louder. One-two-three-four, one-two-three-four. I cleared four earthen blocks right in front of me, two above and below. Just enough for me to squeeze into the space.

Deeper, my mind screamed. Get deeper!

And if fate could talk, it would have sneered and said, “You’re not going anywhere.”

My fists bounced off something cold and hard. I’d hit solid rock. A few pointless punches told me I was trapped, the monster barely seconds away.

I spun, saw the zombie, and set down a block of dirt between us. The ghoul reached over, smashing me in the chest. I flew back, hitting the stone cliff. Chest aching, gasping for breath, I jammed the second soil cube on top of the first.

Darkness fell. I was buried alive.