It's amazing how some things that seem of overwhelming importance to your future can become meaningless in an instant when life comes crashing down around your ears. Scarier still is how this destroying of dreams is not always a gradual process; it can take only months, weeks, or even days. For me, it happened in one day.

Hi. I'm Elizabeth. I'm kinda new at this, so tolerate my blunders, 'k? Hm, how are you supposed to start one of these things, anyway? I guess it doesn't matter much, because I can guarantee that every single one of you reading this will think it's all made up. You'll follow my story until you lose interest, then go back to watching TV or sitting in school or driving to work or whatever the heck it is you usually spend your time on. But guess what? Everything I'm typing here is absolutely true. I'm not really sure how this is supposed to work, but I've been given this chance to warn you all, and I have to try. The Darkness is coming. Wow, does that sound bad- (don't you dare come near me with that straitjacket!) but just because it sounds stupid does not mean that you shouldn't be absolutely terrified. I guess all I can do is tell you what happened.

It was a dark and stormy night. (cue dramatic music, please) Sorry, sorry, I've just always wanted to use that line. But seriously, it was late and rainy and thundering, the works. I was in my room, listening to music with the earbuds in so as not to wake up the folks, and checking out colleges' websites.

Oops, forgot to mention that kind of stuff in my attempt to get (and hopefully keep) your attention. Like I said, I'm Elizabeth. Short- 5'3"ish last I checked, straight brown hair and boring brown eyes, glasses. Some of you may know me (or someone like me), ya know, the kid with her nose in a book and/or earbuds blasting at all times. Unfortunately, I'm 17, so people aren't as tolerant of my whole shut-the-world-out thing as they used to be. The fact that I'm 17 also explains why I'm looking at colleges- I do pretty well in school, as long as my teachers leave me alone when I know the answers, so I could go to a lot of different universities. But since I'm a waffling procrastinator and my grades don't really narrow things down, picking a college is being a major pain in the butt.

Anyways, there I was, sitting at my ancient computer in my little crowded undeniably messy room, flicking through Pandora songs like TV channels, totally and blissfully unaware of how little time we had left. Unbeknownst to me, it wasn't just thunderclouds forming over the metroplex (which is where I live, duh). The night and rainclouds neatly hid the pool of Darkness growing above my city, roiling and swirling with its promise of imminent catastrophe. Soon, tendrils began swooping down, plopping against the ground with an oily smack, curling where they landed to form…Heartless.

If you don't know what those are, stick with me. For those of you who do, congrats and feel free to skip a bit. Heartless are creatures of the Darkness. They take many forms and have many different abilities, but underneath they're the same- twisted beasts, motivated only by their relentless search for hearts, a mindless quest to turn ordinary citizens into them. If your heart is taken by a Heartless, you will become one too- and hunger for others' hearts in turn. It is impossible for normal people to kill Heartless, and very difficult to even ward them off. When a Heartless is slain by a wielder of the Keyblade, it releases the heart it holds captive- but the heart cannot return. Of course, I knew none of this at the time- I figured it out later on. How, you ask? Well, just keep reading and see.

The Heartless looked around greedily, fastening their amber eyes on the few pedestrians at this time of night. Several loped over, and before the walkers could get over their shock, their hearts were swallowed- and their bodies began to fade. As you can imagine, this caused quite a commotion. However, what with my music and attempted focus, I failed to notice anything until first car horns and then sirens began blaring (I know, I know, I'm oblivious). Throwing open my window, my jaw dropped as I saw chaos in the streets.

What… what were those things? I rubbed my eyes and pinched my arm, hoping I was having a really wacky dream. No more late sugary snacks for you! But no, I was awake, and this was really happening. Oh God, this was really happening! I jumped out of my window (relax, I'm on the first floor, but thank you for your concern) and landed in the grass of our front lawn. Across the street, I watched as Heartless materialized inside of houses, in yards, on mailboxes. One even splashed down in a swimming pool. Any other time, I would have laughed, but not now.

I watched as people were dragged from their beds. I watched as Heartless plunged their suddenly insubstantial arms into chests and removed hearts. I watched as men, women, and children, people I knew, struggled futilely and then collapsed into nothingness. I watched, and hated myself for watching. A few seconds stretched and became an eternity, as I struggled to understand what these beings were and why they were doing this. Then I realized that Heartless could even now be appearing inside my home, attacking my parents or my little sister. I turned to run back inside, to do- what? What could I do? There had to be something! But as I turned, I came to realize a pool of Darkness had formed beneath me, capturing my feet in its murky depths. My horror knew no bounds in that moment. Then it grew worse, as the Darkness thrust quaking tentacles up my legs, around my waist, over my face, smothering me in vileness. I fought, but lost. I closed my eyes, not understanding how death had come at such an unexpected time and in such an unexpected way. I fell….