I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead

Today’s new psychological thriller – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead.

“What if only Soulmates can slay each other’s dragons?”

*Unique…highly recommended…Not to be missed!” Midwest Book Review

“thought-provoking…I identified 100% with these characters” Drishti’s Diary

“You’ll find yourself thinking about it long after you lay it down” FictionPrizewinners

“A sweet read with a soul-stirring premise” Romantic Thrillers.com

“a wonderful dream you won’t want to wake up from” Angel’s Notes

“a metaphysical thriller…read it!” YearsBestBooks.com


Corso invited me to soar, but he was only desirous of harnessing my dreams. Dr. Corso was the monster we would have to destroy.

I met him at my old high school’s college fair. I haunted those things like a revenant. I was a “bad example”, the ghost of Opportunity Passed. Out of school, I worked Fluffernutter’s at the mall. The glitter-covered notebooks and fleece purses of that accessories store had almost succeeded in torpedoing my passion for fashion along with my self-esteem.

Self-delusion to imagine I was made for better things? What I needed, above all, was to figure out some way to go to college, what I was doing was ickily sinking into learned helplessness with a double chaser of self-pity.

I was good at things once. I knew words, I knew history; I had a winning manner, a gift for mimicry and a eidetic memory. Feed me on algorithms, test me with paradigms! Not my fault I was kicked out of more than one high school for “seeing beyond”; for guessing at things I wasn’t supposed to know. “Second sight” is said to be a gift but if that was true, why couldn’t I tell my own fortune? I felt separated from achievement and privilege by a mysterious sheet of invisibility – a force field against which I uselessly pressed my snotty nose. My horoscope said that day of the college fair was a high point of vulnerability for Virgos like me. But I was so desperate I went anyway.

Swamped in stigma, I wore black like a ninja. To impersonate or to disappear? I hadn’t decided. In honor of the existence of colleges I donned a silver thread vest ornamented with stars. Even so the other students – young, confident, accomplished – parted around me like sparkling water avoiding a big ugly rock. It was really no different from the time I was a student here and my nickname was “Thesaurus.” Couldn’t blame them. I felt like I’d been cut in half long ago and the other part of me had taken off – was missing — gone – wandering the world someplace on walkabout.

My miasma was a pheromone of warning: Stay away! Maybe I should just accept my fate: to work at Fluffernutter’s forever. Maybe if I tried real hard I could some day become a manager and scream at a succession of all-thumbs newbies for not understanding fluffing. Would I live with Mom for eternity and celebrate every Saturday night by staring at TV wrestling with my non-boyfriend Bex? Thoughts like this had the power to make me shudder visibly, disturbing the smooth self- congratulatory fervor of this effervescent get-together. It turned out Dr. Corso had well-developed radar for someone like me.

He was a handsome, handsome man; unafraid to stand alone in the middle of a crowd. Magnificently bald, a deep-chested man comfortably dressed in polo shirt and relaxed khakis in contrast to all the recruiters’ business suits. With my cultivated Saturday night expertise I thought he looked a bit like a retired wrestler, or some conqueror from another era. Hannibal or somebody. A man who bridged time itself to attend our modest festival.

He had no assistant, no graduate students to drive the little fish into his net; he stood apart, not sitting, not even holding papers, just surveying the crowd. Looking for someone like me. Too late! Eye contact! I had to go over. Struggling to smile.

“Hi,” he said, pupils dilating big enough to swallow me. “Has anybody ever told you you look like Bettie Page?”

Doesn’t the universe think in archetypes? I was thinking Hannibal and he was thinking – Yeah. I’ve heard that comparison a few times too often, actually, that’s why I cultivate the “Tron” asymmetrical bangs. But forget truth! This is a college fair. Take the foot out of my mouth and out it forward. I reminded myself of long dead instructions: college recruiters are like job interviewers. Start wherever they start and build .

“To work at the mall you have to be an archetype,” I smiled, taking his outstretched hand. An electric thrill ran through me at his power. I was so needy and he had so much to give. He folded my hand right into his other palm and reeled me in. I tried reading the name of his college on the banner behind him. Cadensis. Sounded vaguely familiar.

“I’m Dr. Corso,” he said, “lord of the psychology department. And you are—“

More awkwardness. Too bad about my name! Too bad about my mother’s failed romanticism!
“Jasmyn Suzino. But everyone calls me Jazz. “ At college I planned to drop my silly legal moniker first chance I could.

“I like the name Jasmyn,” he said, still holding both my hands. “Quite exotic. You don’t run into many others, I assume?”

“No,” I said. “It’s rare all right.” You have to be a Disney fancier of a certain era. To escape his clinch I picked up a brochure. It depicted a happy couple – boy and girl – romping on the lawn of a fairy-tale castle.

“That’s one of our ivory towers,” he explained.
“Wow,” I said. Stupidly. Jazz the poet! She has such a way with words!

“So, Jasmyn,” he pointed to a chair and sat down too, “What are your interests?”
There were only two chairs. Now that we were seated in a private confab, milling sheep were even less likely to come over and draw off some of this unaccustomed heat. I was sweating. Curses.

“I’m interested in everything,” I said, which was not strictly true. “I work in fashion.” Can you call selling rhinestone tiaras to adoring Dads to gift their sparkly princesses “fashion”? No, you can’t. Fashion is like poetry; a difficult language well worth learning. Rhinestone equals “not trying” like “roses in June” equals Poem. I threw my one desperate accomplishment at his feet. “I won a national poetry prize in high school.”

I keep this secret unless I’m filling out a form, but it’s pretty much all I’ve got. From a lizard skin portfolio Dr. Corso extracted a single document, snapped it to a clipboard and started filling out a form for me! I don’t need to tell you that’s a first. College recruiters rise above. Usually.
“A poetry prize!” He did a good job of acting impressed. “Do you declaim?”
OMG, OMG!!! No one ever asks for that! I tried to think how to get out of it.
“Oh, you know. Romantic love,” I murmured, agonized. “I’m embarrassed by it now.”

He kept on writing. “You’re a blusher, too, I see. We psychologists are intrigued by those who wear emotion in their blood vessels, so to speak. Don’t be embarrassed. You’ll find I am a big believer in romantic love. Here’s a secret; I started life as a Roman Catholic priest, and now I’m not.” He raised his amazing eyebrows amazingly. “All because of love.”

He wore a wedding ring, I noticed. Big gold-chased thing. I was glad to see it, considering the scary charisma pouring off him. I relaxed a little and he handed me a water bottle touting the school’s name. Springs of knowledge! I tore the top off like a desert crawler.
“Interested in everything,” he quoted, writing. “At Cadensis I’m conducting a research experiment in out-of-body experiences and I need volunteers. Do your interests extend to other worlds? Sound like anything you’d be up for?”

Was this the foot-in-the-door you’re supposed to be alert for? There was no polite way to tell him I was totally, completely, not interested in psychology. I had been professionally “psychologized” from the age of three to fifteen, when I was finally old enough to Just Say No. All from an idea my mom got that I was molested at my daycare – there wasn’t any proof and she lost the court case – certainly I had no memory of it. Just because some other kids were or detectives got them to say they were. All that “therapy” made somebody feel better. Mom and the psychologist, I guess. ‘Cause it sure didn’t help me.

“What’s an out-of-body experience?” Playing for time.

“Dream walking,” he said. “Soul travel. In every culture there are people who consciously experience their spirits roving in dreams, in rituals, as a reaction to threat or through religious induction. Often they see things they couldn’t otherwise know from their physical perspective. Remote viewing is another name. I’m conducting a series of experiments to explore the possibility.”
At nineteen years old I’m pretty much used to old men wanting to experiment on me. Every high school and middle school contains Casper-the-Graspers; even the Fluffernutter dads weep with disappointment when I won’t model our tutus or show them my tramp stamp.

“Sorry,” I said, almost relieved to be so arbitrarily excluded. This self-defeat explains the fix I’m in. “I don’t dream. I barely sleep.” Wakeful Jazz, up at three and wandering. That’ s me.
His eyes bugged out at me again. Pale hazel eyes with tiger markings — we sell jewelry just like that. It’s pretty and ugly at the same time. But you can’t stop staring.

“Everyone dreams,” said Dr. Corso confidently. “I assure you that you do. The fact that you don’t remember your dreams is of utmost interest to me. “ He wrote furiously in bright green ink. “These are paid positions, by the way,” he added. “And I have within my supervision several scholarships. The Emily Fortunatus-Falcones Scholarship would be perfect for you. Cadensis is very well endowed. We only bother charging tuition to keep out the riff-raff. I assume you graduated from this place?” He looked around my old high school gym with considerable hauteur.

“Yes,” I admitted. “Last June.” And very embarrassing it was to admit having no college to go to, not even “junior.” Fluffernutter U! All I could find, and I was lucky to have it. “Would I be able to study…other things?” I inquired ungracefully.

“Of course.” He waved his hand; his pen might as well have been a wand. “That’s why the Fortunatus-Falcones scholarship is so perfect. It’s designed for those who are undeclared. You explore anything you want for two years before you decide on a major. You don’t even have to take psychology.” He leaned forward. “You do, however, have to participate in my study.”

Well there’s always something. Being taught to dream-walk didn’t sound so bad. I’ve got lots of places I’m planning to go, and if “soul travel” gets me there faster, it’s all right with me.

“Sure,” I agreed. “Sounds really interesting.” I scrabbled in my purse for my checkbook, desperately wondering what they charge for an application. Would my check bounce? Some of these places want two hundred bucks per application!

He stayed my hand with his big paw. “This scholarship covers everything,” he said. “There’s even a small stipend. If you’ll just fill out your address and sign here.”

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed that the ratty yet beloved Christmas scarf my sister Annika knitted me from mismatched yarn had fallen to the floor. I was becoming unwound. Just like that scarf.

Gallantly he picked it up. “I’ll keep this,” he said. “If you don’t mind.”
Now my eyes bugged. “As a guarantee we’ll meet again,” he said suavely. Weird, don’t you agree? Still, I was pretty sure Annika would understand.

Anyway, it seemed the long desperate winter was over. Spring had sprung. I signed , and then I floated away from that booth in a state best described as shock. Didn’t apply to any other place. That scarf seemed like his guarantee that I’d get in.

Of course afterward I felt like an idiot who must have gotten everything wrong. Whenever you take things for granted, in my admittedly short experience, you’re headed for trouble.

But the letter arrived one week later. It was thin, so thin like a rejection. Condensed and abrupt like the word “no”. Doubtless my scarf would be arriving at long, long length by Toxic Freight. Probably he’d looked up all my records and found out about all the tests I mysteriously “aced”, all the psychologists I’d seen. Good things come at least in twos, a single anything is bad news. I made my mom open it.

“The first word is “congratulations,” “ she said. “Oh, my goodness, Jasmyn, you got in! It says you got a scholarship for two years – housing,

books, everything!” She stared at me, awestruck and dazzled as if I had suddenly become a more valuable human being. My little sister Annika, jet powered by Ritalin, jumped up and down on the sofa as if it was her personal trampoline.

I studied the sheet of thick ivory paper topped with a gold- embossed seal and bottomed by Dr. Corso’s signature. It said “packet”; it said, “September.” Dr. Corso had proved not just that there are dreams but that they come true! Corso’s green ink pen had been a wand.

I was speechless until I could utter a Wow. Wordless Jazz.“Where is it?’ asked my mom. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it.”I wasn’t going to let her criticize this gift horse’s dental job. “Northern New Jersey,” I said. “Far up.” Where nobody goes. “What is that by car?” Mom hopefully inquired. “One hour? Two?”

“At least three,” I said smugly. Answer to a prayer! I would not be a commuting student. My family would finally have to leave me alone so I could stop being Jasmyn and become Jazz. Become the me I had always been meant to be.

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