She needed money and she needed it very badly. She lived alone, with no parents to tell her what to do. She was free. But nothing in life is free. All things come at a cost, even freedom itself.
In a world like this, it was normal to see a fourteen-year-old kid like her living by themselves. The leaders of her city tried to make fair laws, but they couldn’t. This city had way too much crime. They couldn’t even get parents to take care of their children anymore. So here she was, struggling for money so she could pay for her house.
She fished for a living. There was a marketplace right beside her house that she sold the fish at. But it wasn’t enough. She only sold my fish for four dollars apiece. If she charged too much, people wouldn’t buy them. But if she didn’t charge enough, she wouldn’t be able to pay for her house. She had just come back from fishing by the docks that she lived near. Living by the docks gave her a good place to fish, and it was interesting enough to see what kind of people came in and out of this city. When she was done fishing, she put all the fish in a bag and went to the marketplace to sell them.
Nobody was coming to her booth. She wondered why. She usually had plenty of customers because she sold her fish for the lowest price in town. Instead, everyone was crowded around someone else’s booth. She went over there to see what was going on. That's when she saw the sign. The sign was flashy and electric. She looked at it and realized that they were selling their fish for three dollars apiece. She didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t keep her price the same, or she wouldn’t get any customers. But if she lowered the price, she wouldn’t have enough money to live off of. She pushed her way through the crowd and walked up to the man selling the fish.
“Um, hello, excuse me,” she said. “I make a living at this market. I use the money to afford my house. Would you mind me asking you to put your price back to the way it was?”
The man glared at her.
“Look, I don’t care if you’re poor. I won’t change my price. It’s not like I need the money anyway, but it’s always nice to have extra,” he said.
She was offended by those words. She wasn’t poor, she was just struggling, that’s all. She took a step closer.
“What did you say?” she asked, enraged.
“You heard me. Now get away from my shop you penniless beggar.”
She couldn’t take it anymore. She lunged at him with all her might. The man moved out of the way in time, but unfortunately, his booth couldn’t. She tackled the booth, knocking it over and destroying the sign.
The man was practically growling at her. She could almost see steam coming out of his ears. The crowd backed away and went to the other side of the marketplace. The man looked at her.
“You will pay for that,” he said, looking at her like she was an annoying bug.
She did not want to pay for it, but her conscience got the better of her. She knew that it was mostly her fault that the booth was destroyed, so she was the one responsible for paying for it.
“How much does all the stuff I broke cost?”
“Seven hundred dollars in total,” the man said, with an evil smirk on his face. “You better pay for it, unless you want me to call that cop over there,” he said, pointing to a black-haired cop across the street.
She couldn’t believe that she broke seven hundred dollars worth of stuff. That was almost all the money she had, if she paid him, she would only have a few dollars left!
“I’ll be right back,” she said to the man.
She was going to her house to grab the money. She walked down the streets to her house. When she got there, she took out the key and unlocked the door. Then she went underneath her kitchen sink and took out a clear plastic jar with all of her savings in it. She poured all of the money on the floor and counted it up. She only had a total of seven hundred dollars and eighty-nine cents. She took the seven hundred dollars and stuffed it in her pocket. She walked out of the door and locked it. As she walked towards the marketplace, she thought to herself about what she was going to do. She had no idea. There was no way she could outsell that guy and she couldn’t think of anything else she could do for a living. When she made it to the marketplace, she looked around for the man. When she found him, she approached him.
She took the crumpled bills out of her pocket and handed them to him. He snatched them out of her hand and started to count them. She saw the look in his eyes. This man appeared to be searching for a missing dollar so he could get her arrested. After counting the bills, and double-checking, he realized that she had given him every single dollar of the money she owed. He scowled at her, mad that she hadn’t given him a reason to be mad. She walked away, going back to her house.
Her monthly payment for the house was due in four days and she had no idea how she was going to get the money. She didn’t eat dinner that night because she had nothing left to eat except for fish. Ironically enough, she fished for a living, but she was actually allergic to eating them. As night fell, she watched TV on her small sofa. She laid down on the sofa and drifted off to sleep.
When she woke up, it was early morning. She got off of the sofa and walked into the kitchen, looking for breakfast. That’s when she remembered that she didn’t have any more food. Not feeling like changing her clothes, she put a jacket on and walked outside, wearing the same clothes she wore the day before. She didn’t know what to do and did not feel like fishing, so she decided to go to town. The town wasn’t too far away from the docks where she lived. As she walked towards the city, she turned around and saw a boat coming. She walked to the docks, curious about who was in it. When the boat stopped at the shore, a man with spiky brown hair came out. He was wearing a black suit and tie with dress pants. He had golden-yellow eyes that glimmered brightly. This man had a mixed skin color and he looked like a businessman. He got off the boat, holding a suitcase in his left hand.
The man noticed her looking at him. He looked at her and she turned around, pretending that she wasn’t watching him. The man got off the boat and went in the direction of the town. She continued going to the town too. When she arrived, she saw many people and buildings. The city was filled with houses and shops. It also had two libraries and a bank. She walked around the city, saying hi to people and exploring. She went inside stores and window-shopped, wishing that she could actually afford something in there. Eventually, she stumbled upon the bank. The man with spiky hair was in there, talking to the accountant. She couldn’t make out what they were talking about, but then the accountant opened a trapdoor underneath him. He went down a ladder and underneath the bank. When he came back up, he was holding a large wad of cash.
She wished she had that much money. He handed the cash to the spiky-haired man. The man walked out of the bank with the cash. That’s when she knew what she was going to do. She was going to try to rob the bank. Whenever she had crazy ideas like that, her conscience usually stopped her, but this time she did not feel bad. What was the point of feeling bad for taking someone’s money when they didn’t need it anyway? The money in that bank belonged to people who already had enough money. They probably didn’t even need it anyway. People like her, people who were struggling would make better use of all that money.
She would’ve worn a mask, but she did not have one and could not afford one. She didn’t have a weapon either. She had a plan though. She would rob them during shift change. When the bank switched workers, she would attack. In her town, crime was everywhere. This bank had hardly any security at all because they couldn’t find trustworthy people. They were afraid that if they hired any other people, the workers themselves would rob the bank. They were probably right too.
She stood at the side of the bank, waiting for the guards to walk out. When they did, she put her right hand in her pocket and walked in. The only one in there was the accountant.
“Put your hands up or I’ll shoot,” she said, pretending to have a gun in her pocket.
The accountant immediately put his hands in the air.
“Now go through the trapdoor and grab as much money as possible.”
“What trapdoor?” he asked nervously.
“You know exactly what I’m talking about. Now hurry up and get the money.”
The man went through the trapdoor and came back up with his arms full of cash. She collected it all and tried to walk out of the bank.
She was stopped by a security guard. She walked right into him. When she looked up and saw him staring at her, she knew that she had messed up.
“Just where do you think you’re going?” he asked her.
She knew that there was no good excuse and wondered what she should say. She shrugged her shoulders. She knew that she couldn’t make a run for it. The security guard was blocking the only exit. The security guard blocked the way, while the accountant called the police.
“Who are you?” the security guard asked her.
She knew there was no use lying so she told him the truth.
“I’m Valeera Monnete,” she said.
She seemed to have been standing there forever before the cops arrived. Valeera didn’t know what to do, she was going to be arrested. There was nothing she could do. Eventually, the cops arrived. The one who arrested her was the black-haired cop from earlier. He went behind Valeera and put her in handcuffs. He told her that she was going to be in prison for seven years. Valeera wished she could stand trial, but in that city, there were no trustworthy judges. He took her to the police car and drove to the jail. When they made it there, he took Valeera to her cell. It was very small, dirty, and hot. There were also bugs and rats scurrying around. The people in the other cells looked at her as if they were going to eat her alive.
There was only one cell left, and it was right beside her’s. All the other ninety-nine cells were taken. There were two other jails in town, but they were filled with prisoners. Valeera was trapped in a cell with no way out, or at least she thought she was.
She sat in her jail cell. The other prisoners were all looking at her, probably wondering what a kid like her was doing in jail. Valeera sat in there for a while, bored out of her mind. Eventually, she saw something odd.
It looked like a boy about her age, and he appeared to be almost transparent! Valeera thought her mind was just playing tricks on her, so she ignored him. That is, until he started to talk to her.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
At this point, Valeera was getting pretty freaked out. She had many questions. Who was this boy? Why was he transparent? What did he want with her?
“Who are you? And why are you transparent?” she asked him.
Valeera didn’t ask the last question because she wanted to figure out that answer herself.
“I’m Baxter and I dunno why I’m transparent. I just woke up like that one day.”
“Why are you here?” she asked Baxter.
The other prisoners were looking at her. They probably thought she was crazy, but she didn’t care about their opinions.
“I used to be a prisoner here, at least until I woke up like this. I was in jail for stealing. I was hungry and didn’t have anything to eat, so I tried to steal food from a store.”
Valeera immediately felt bad for him after hearing his story. After all, it was something she could relate to.
“Sorry to hear that. If you’re free now, why don’t you just leave?”
“I stay in this place to help people like you. I also wanna find a body because I wanna live like a normal person again. I can go through walls and float. Not everyone can even see me.”
When he said this, she figured out what happened to him. He must’ve somehow died in this jail, probably just passed away in his sleep. Baxter was a ghost.
“I”m trying to help people, and maybe someday I’ll find a person nice enough to give me their body,” he said.
Valeera was a little creeped out by this, but she needed his help to get out.
“Hey Baxter, can you still pick up stuff?”
“So, I guess you can just help me by getting the key and letting me out,” she said.
Baxter nodded. Valeera saw him float away. Five minutes later, he was back with the key. He unlocked the door with a click.
Valeera looked around, trying to see if any other prisoners noticed her cell door open. They were all looking the other way. Except for one.
“She’s escaping!” he shouted.
She took off running. Valeera bolted away and she heard the alarm sound. They were after her. The prison guards had almost caught up with her. She turned a corner and hid there with Baxter beside her.
“Now that I helped you get out, will you give me your body?”
“I can’t give you my body, I need it.”
“Pleeease,” Baxter begged.
“I’m sorry, I can’t.”
“Pleeease,” he said again.
Baxter’s voice got deeper when he said please the second time. Really deeper. It almost sounded…. demonic. Baxter lunged at her and her mind went blank. Baxter was inside of her now.