Chapter One: Trusting Sam
Jamie opened his eyes and smiled. His bedroom curtain flapped gently in the cool morning breeze allowing light to stream in through a gap. He listened as his brother turned over in the bunk above him. It was early, JJ would be asleep for ages. His older brother loved to sleep in.
Jamie thought about the day before. He’d had an awesome birthday. He had been sure it was going to be ruined by the arrival of his cousin, Sam, but instead it had turned into another thrilling adventure in the Minecraft world.
While Sam chose to lock himself away and watch television, the Crafters’ Club members used the opportunity to re-enter the Minecraft world and give Jamie his birthday gift—a map they’d created especially for him.
The birthday celebrations had abruptly ended when Sam, playing from the Xbox, had used his Minecraft character to set off an explosion and attack them. The Crafters’ Club members had been forced into situations they’d never encountered before while desperately trying to keep the portal a secret. They’d finally outwitted Sam and returned to the real world but, much to their dismay, Sam discovered the portal in the forest. They made a promise that they would take Sam into the Minecraft world on one condition—that he kept the portal secret.
Jamie pushed his feet into the mattress of the bunk above him. “Come on bro’, time to wake up. We’ve got a promise to keep, remember?”
JJ groaned. “There’s no hurry, I’m still asleep.”
Jamie laughed. “No you’re not. Now get up. We need to find Sam and plan which map we’re going to take him into.”
“You find him,” JJ said. “He’s probably still asleep. The girls won’t be ready yet, either, it’s too early.”
“I bet he’s awake,” Jamie said. “He’ll be too excited to sleep.”
“Fine, you talk to him and work out which map he’d like to visit. Store inventory and supplies and, after breakfast when the girls arrive, we can discuss going back in. We’re going to have to make some pretty strict rules so he doesn’t do anything stupid.”
Jamie grinned as the rustle of blankets above him and a yawn signaled the conversation was over. He couldn’t wait to go back through the portal. They’d need to work out a way to ensure Sam listened to them and respected the Minecraft world and its people. Sam had promised to follow their rules the day before, but their cousin was older and thought he knew everything. He also lied, a lot.
Jamie pushed open the door to JJ’s bedroom to see if Sam was still asleep. His cousin’s bag had exploded. Clothes and magazines lay strewn across the floor, desk, and bed. JJ was not going to be happy that he had let Sam use his room. The bed was a mess of clothes and screwed-up bedding, but otherwise it was empty.
Jamie made his way to the kitchen. He expected to find his cousin eating breakfast. Instead he found his dad alone at the kitchen counter reading the paper. His dad threw the paper down and, jumping up from his chair, pulled Jamie into a bear hug.
“Hey, there’s my eight-year-old champ. Have you recovered from your big birthday yet?”
Jamie laughed and struggled out of his father’s arms. “Yeah, it was a great day. Awesome, in fact. Best birthday ever.”
His dad grinned. “I’m glad. I’m about to cook some croissants if you’re ready for breakfast?”
Jamie shook his head. “No thanks, maybe later. Have you seen Sam?”
“Sam? If he’s not in bed I’d try the family room. He’s probably in there watching TV.”
“Okay, thanks.” Jamie made his way back to the family room. He pushed open the door but the room was empty. He was about to leave when the television caught his eye. A Minecraft map filled the screen. He moved closer. The screen showed a familiar, hilly landscape leading to a village in the distance. Toby’s village.
Jamie’s heart raced. Surely Sam wouldn’t have gone in alone? He picked up a controller and changed the view. A Minecraft character appeared. The familiar red-and-white checkered grin of Sam’s character, OarsumBoss, was instantly recognizable. His red-and-black warrior skin contrasted with the greens and blues of the Minecraft world and he held a diamond sword out in front. Jamie watched OarsumBoss move toward the village, occasionally slashing his sword to cut grass or a tree. Jamie’s eyes remained fixed on the screen. Not only had Sam worked out how to access inventory but the diamond sword confirmed he had inventory. It wasn’t always the case when they entered the Minecraft world.
Jamie threw the controller down and ran to get JJ.
JJ, Annie, Charli, and Jamie crowded together on the couch in the family room, their eyes glued to the television screen. After waking JJ, Jamie had run next door to get Charli, and across the road to collect Annie.
“Why didn’t he wait until we could all go in together?” Annie asked. “We could have helped him, shown him how everything works.”
Charli laughed. “Doesn’t look like he needed us to. He’s holding a sword and right now he looks like he’s sprinting. Not as dumb as we thought.”
“Hopefully he’ll be killed,” JJ said. “Then he’ll end up back out here and won’t be able to re-enter. That’s probably the best we can hope for.”
Jamie shook his head. “No, we can’t let that happen. He’ll come straight out and tell Dad, then we’ll never get to go back in. Not only that, he’s heading to Toby’s village. Who knows what damage he’s going to do.”
“Jamie’s right,” Annie said. “We need to go in and teach him how to exist in the Minecraft world, how to respect our friends who live there. We promised.”
JJ snorted. “I don’t think we need to worry about any promise we made. He certainly hasn’t kept his word.”
“It doesn’t mean we should break our promise,” Jamie said. “Come on, let’s store some inventory. We need to be quick and get there before he causes trouble.”
Annie sniffed and looked toward the family-room door. “What’s that amazing smell?”
“My dad’s cooking croissants,” Jamie said. “We’ll eat them later, we don’t have time now.”
“Are we all going in?” Annie asked.
Surprise registered on Jamie’s face. He stopped loading inventory into the chests and turned to face Annie. “Of course, unless you don’t want to?”
Annie’s cheeks reddened. “It might be safer if I stay out and watch from here. If you get into danger I can help, perhaps even change the map. That worked yesterday.”
“That’s a great idea,” JJ said. “But are you sure? I’m happy to stay out here if you’d prefer to go in.”
Annie shook her head. “No. I’ll stay.”
Charli inhaled and laughed. “I think Annie’s decision to stay has more to do with the wafting smell of buttery croissants than her desire to save us.”
Annie laughed. “Okay, so maybe it helped me with my decision. But he’s not my cousin. He’ll listen to JJ.”
JJ snorted again. “I doubt it.”
They watched as Jamie moved his character to place chests full of armor, weapons, and food in the map. He’d stayed out of sight of OarsumBoss who had just entered the village.
“Okay, all done,” Jamie said. “Let’s go in before he causes any problems.”
“Too late,” Charli said.
They watched as OarsumBoss used his sword to smash crops in the vegetable gardens. Villagers were moving quickly toward their huts.
Annie gasped. “What if he tries to kill the villagers?”
The others were silent, watching as OarsumBoss destroyed the rest of the vegetable gardens and then moved toward the nearest hut.
As OarsumBoss reached the hut the door opened and a villager appeared. OarsumBoss swished his sword back and forth. The villager sidestepped the sword, threw a potion at OarsumBoss, and hurried back to his hut.
“Oh no,” Jamie groaned. “He’s probably poisoned Sam.”
“At least it stopped him from hurting the villagers,” Annie said.
“We need to go in and see if we can save him,” Jamie said. “We can’t risk him coming home and telling our parents. And we know him well enough to be sure that’s exactly what he’ll do.”
JJ turned to Annie. “If he dies you’ll need to go down to the forest and stop him. Convince him to wait for us before he comes back to the house, tell him we know a way he might be able to go back into the map.”
“Do we?” Annie asked.
JJ shook his head. “No, but he doesn’t know that. You just need to buy us some time so we can come back out and talk to him.”
Annie frowned. “Okay. But what if he’s doing something evil? Should I try and stop him from out here or would it be better to just change the map?”
JJ nodded. “Yes, if it’s a complete disaster change the map to the theme park one. That should definitely stop him and we know we can use the portal there to get home.”
“If we realize something terrible’s going to happen we’ll use a signal so you know to change maps,” Jamie said. “How about if we want you to change the map JJ and I stand facing each other? If we have swords, we’ll put their tips together. If we don’t, we’ll just use our hands.”
Annie nodded. “That sounds easy enough to remember.”
Jamie grinned. “Awesome.” He turned to JJ and Charli. “Everything’s sorted, let’s go.”
JJ and Charli followed him out of the house and down the backyard to the forest. Jamie ran along the narrow path, across the creek bed, and up into the clearing that housed the portal. Its glowing purple light and welcoming hum greeted them as they slowed to a walk and caught their breath.
“Come on, there’s no time to waste,” Jamie said. He joined hands with JJ and Charli and pulled them into the portal, through to another world.