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That weird waving hand in the window

I’ve had the same nightmare about four times in my life. It only varies slightly each time, but the result has been the same: I wake up in a cold sweat, screaming. It was the same up until the last time it happened a few nights ago.

The nightmare goes like this. I’m outside whatever house I’m living in at the time and look back at the house. I know the house is empty, so there shouldn’t be anyone inside it. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a hand at a window. It’s a hand attached to an arm, and whoever is the owner of the arm is standing behind the wall, so I can’t see him. (I know it’s a man because the arm is big, muscular.) The hand then waves at me and signals for me to come into the house. I swear the hand is mocking me.

Every time I had that nightmare, I freak out and try to run the other way but can’t. I’m paralyzed and can’t run, so I start screaming. It’s right about that time that I would wake up. Years would go by before I have the same nightmare again. I had it in grade school, when I lived in Mexico. Then I had it in high school, when I lived in Texas. I had it again once I moved to Pennsylvania as an adult.

It was always weird to me that the same nightmare would happen, and I’ve often wondered what weird part of my subconscious was trying to bubble up. I’ve thought about it, and I don’t see any patterns in events in my life when I’ve had the nightmare.

I had the nightmare again two nights ago. It all went the same exact way. I was out on the lawn of the house, drinking a lemonade. (It was summer.) I had my camera on the ground, pointed at the house. I looked at the camera and see through the lens that the hand is on the second floor of the house, waving at me. I feel the same feeling of dread but there is something different this time. This time, I don’t feel like running away. This time I run straight at the house and yell to my dog (a German Shepherd) to join me. The hand retreats from the window as we run into the house and go room by room looking for it.

This time I’m not afraid.

I woke up shortly after we had searched the last room and got up to drink some water. My heart was beating fast, and I was a little scared… But I didn’t feel that feeling of dread, of wanting to run away and hide. It could very well be that it’s because I’m an adult, and I carry around some weight. (People have told me that they were afraid of me when they first met me, that they were physically intimidated.) I also see my home as my castle, and I will fight like a lion to protect it and my family. The German Shepherd also carries the strongest bite in its class.

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René F. Najera, DrPH

I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
About History of Vaccines: I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, a project of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Please read the About page on the site for more information.
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2 replies

  1. There are a few difference between the early dreams and the last one.
    One, you have a family and family home to protect.
    Two, you are older and more experienced.
    Finally, you also feel empowered by your canine companion.

    Dreams are funny things, missing loads of details that the mind ignores. You are sitting outside, do you feel the wind blowing against your skin and clothing? Do you feel the heat of the sun? Do you hear *every* usual noise from the environment?
    I’ve had some winners in the nightmare category, courtesy of my military service over the span of decades. I’ve managed to look for what is present and what is missing, then introduce the novel as a test. If what I introduce works/appears, either I am dreaming or magic is real. As magic isn’t real, magic is acceptable in dreams. Once one learns that, one can alter nightmares into something far less stressful.


    1. Funny that you mention it. My test for whether or not I am sleeping is to look for my watch. If I’m wearing it and can’t read it, it’s a dream. If I’m not wearing it… Well, then all bets are off and I’m stuck until I can wake myself up.


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