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Book Spotlight: Dream Student by J.J. DiBenedetto

Dream Student by J.J. DiBenedetto
J.J. DiBenedetto

Dream Student by J.J. DiBenedetto

What would you do if you could see other people's dreams? What if you could watch their hidden fantasies and uncover their deepest, darkest secrets...without them ever knowing? What if they could get you killed?

Sara Barnes thought all she had to worry about was final exams, Christmas shopping and deciding whether she liked the cute freshman in the next dorm that has a crush on her. But then she starts seeing dreams that aren't hers and learns
more than she ever wanted to know about her friends, her classmates...and a strange, terrifying man whose dreams could get her killed.

"Dream Student" is the thrilling first installment of the Dreams series.

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…Sara isn’t at the accident scene anymore. She’s somewhere else, somewhere strange. Except not strange at all. She’s been here before. Hasn’t she? Yes, she has, she feels very sure about it, but she can’t remember the circumstances.

It’s a bedroom. A big bedroom. Bigger than her dorm room. It’s also a man’s bedroom; there isn’t a thing in here that has even the vaguest suggestion of a woman’s touch. It’s certainly nice; the furniture looks expensive, as does the painting on the wall above the bed: a picture of a sailing ship with the sky full of color behind it, framed in gold.

Definitely gold. Sara knows that for a fact. Just like she knows that the watch on the dresser is a genuine Rolex. It doesn’t occur to her just now to wonder how, exactly, she knows these things.

Sara sits down in a comfortable recliner in the corner. She reaches down for the handle, on the right side of the chair near the back, exactly where she knows even without looking–how?–that it will be. She leans all the way back. Everything is right with the world.

No, it isn’t. She’s not completely sure, but she thinks she hears footsteps just outside the bedroom. Scratch that, she is sure now. Footsteps, and the doorknob turning, and the door opening.

A man enters. He’s big; easily over six foot tall and well built. Not quite Schwarzenegger big, but plenty big enough. And familiar. Sara knows she’s seen him somewhere, but she can’t guess where that might have been. He’s leading, or maybe dragging, a girl into the bedroom with him. She’s a teenager; she might be as old as eighteen, but Sara doubts it. She’s blonde and petite and Sara can just picture her leading cheers at a high school football game.

There won’t be any cheerleading from the girl tonight. Right now she looks scared to death. So scared she doesn’t notice Sara even though Sara is looking right at her. The man doesn’t see Sara either. Or hear Sara when she screams, after the man throws the teenager onto the bed and begins to tear at her clothes.

The girl is fighting, scratching, shouting her head off, but none of it does any good. Sara can’t help her; she stands up, but she can’t get to the bed. It’s as though there’s an invisible wall in her way. She can’t get to the phone, or out of the room. She can’t do anything except watch. And scream until her own lungs give out…


Someone’s screaming. No, not “someone,” me. I don’t know why. And then it hits me all at once. I see the whole nightmare, every detail. I go right on screaming.

It’s not until my voice just about gives out that Beth wakes up. That’s the only reason I stop, because my throat hurts too much. I can barely breathe, and I’m clutching myself, holding my arms across my breasts. In my head I’m still seeing that bedroom and the man and the girl over and over and I barely notice that Beth is sitting up now, staring at me.

She looks worried, or maybe frightened out of her wits is a better description. Frightened for me. I’ve never seen that expression on her face before. It doesn’t make me feel any better. All it does is make me want to cry, even more than I already am.

I can’t really see her, between the tears and the fact that I’m too much of a mess to even focus my eyes. She must have gotten out of her bed and walked over to mine, because now she’s hugging me, holding me, telling me everything’s OK, everything is going to be all right. I don’t know how many times she has to say it, over and over, before I start to believe it.

A little bit, anyway. Enough that I stop seeing the nightmare on infinite replay inside my head and I’m back in our room again.


I don’t know how long it takes me to collect myself enough to talk intelligently. A few minutes? An hour? I have no idea, and I don’t even have enough energy to turn my head to look at the clock to find out.
I’m still shaking, still about two seconds away from bursting into tears again. I don’t know why it was so much worse just now; it’s been the same the last four nights. Maybe the lack of good, restful sleep has frayed my nerves to this point?

That, and knowing that I’m probably going to go right on seeing this every night. If it’s been four nights in a row, why would it stop tomorrow night? Or the night after? Am I going to see this sick, horrible shit inside my head every night for the rest of my life?

Beth is looking at me with the saddest expression I think I’ve ever seen on her face. She clearly has no idea what to think about me right now. Having to take care of me in the middle of the night is a new experience; like the aftermath of the Halloween party, it’s usually me seeing to her.

I don’t want to say anything. I don’t want to think about it at all. But I have to tell Beth something. And maybe talking about it will help, somehow. I know I need to share it. I can’t handle this alone. And then the tears do come again, and it takes another few minutes before I’m able to speak. But when I do, finally, recover the power of speech, I tell her everything.

It’s not easy, obviously. Talking about the nightmare brings it back again. I can see it all and it’s just as bad the hundredth time through as it was the first. “It was really horrible,” I say. Beth still has her arm around me, and I can feel myself leaning against her without really thinking about it. She’s warm and comforting and best of all she’s just here.

“I’ve had the same dream the last four nights. Nightmare. Whatever the hell it is. It doesn’t start out bad. I remember…” What do I remember? Just a feeling, darkness, and a mixture of fear and excitement. And then two details come to me. “There was–I think it was a siren, maybe? And then glass–I was stepping on glass, under my shoes, it was making this noise, a sort of crunching sound.”

The ambulance. My first night. I must have been dreaming about that. What else could it be? “It was my first call as a volunteer, my first night out with the paramedics, you remember that, right?” I feel myself calming down a bit as I mention the accident, and yes, I do realize how disturbing it is that talking about a fatal car wreck is actually comforting to me right now.

Author Bio:
J.J. (James) DiBenedetto was born in Yonkers, New York. He attended Case Western Reserve University, where as his classmates can attest, he was a complete nerd. Very little has changed since then.

He currently lives in Arlington, Virginia with his beautiful wife and their cat (who has thoroughly trained them both). When he's not writing, James works in the direct marketing field, enjoys the opera, photography and the New York Giants, among other interests.

The "Dreams" series is James' first published work.

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