Part 4: The Nether
Someone once told me there's a secret dimension in Minecraft that you could only enter by passing through some sort of portal. I didn't believe it at first, but one lonely afternoon I decided to google it. As it turns out, this dimension actually exists, and it's called the Nether.
The Nether is a place full of fire, lava, and creatures so nasty that they make creepers look like puppy dogs. So, why would anyone ever want to visit this strange place? Well, first of all, there's the adventure aspect. The Nether is truly a place that will test the mettle of the most seasoned Minecraft veterans, and being able to survive down there is worth some serious bragging rights.
A more pragmatic reason, though, is that there are some incredibly useful minerals that can only be found in the Nether. Netherack is the most common of these. It's a flammable substance that will burn indefinitely without being consumed, making it a great fuel for bonfires. You can bring a lot of light to your Minecraft world by burning netherack.
A similarly useful mineral is glowstone, a glowing block that will remain lit even underwater. It's the perfect thing to bring light to your underwater fortress, should you choose to build one. (And yes, you should definitely choose to build an underwater fortress in your Minecraft world.)
The third mineral unique to the Nether is Soul Sand, which is basically quicksand. Soul Sand is exceptionally valuable when, like me, you spend a good deal of your time building traps for monsters.
And if collecting all these neat minerals doesn't interest you, the Nether has another interesting feature. In the Nether, one meter is equal to eight in the outside world. That means if you travel 100 meters in the Nether, you've covered 800 in the upper world. By exploiting this, you can build a series of portals that makes traveling extraordinary distances much more manageable. (Besides the whole danger factor, of course.)
I had a lot of reasons to be excited about making a special trip to this alternate dimension. However, in all honesty, I was a bit scared. I had come so far in my Minecraft journey: I had been slowly transformed from the guy cowering in a tiny wooden house on an island to the master of my blocky domain with a sword in my hand and vengeance in my heart. Thinking about entering the Nether made me feel a lot like my old, much wimpier self.
So I avoided it. Yeah, I knew it was there, but I always resisted the urge to enter.
But I'm an explorer at heart. I love to experience untamed and uncharted lands. And so eventually, after much mental turmoil, I decided to take the plunge. I built a portal out of obsidian and stepped in.