I think I am haunted.
In another time and place, I would have been haunted. Today, I’m not sure. Am I haunted? Or do I just have a weird set of invisible friends?
The first one appeared several years back. Just as I was falling asleep, someone called my name. Or more correctly, someone hissed my name in a very sharp whisper. I opened my eyes but no one was there.
It happened, again and again, over the years. Sometimes the voice was male, sometimes female. Always I didn’t recognize it, and always no one was there. Or if they were, they were invisible. I got used to it pretty quickly and learned to hear it and then go back to sleep. No problem.
Then came the sounds. Knocks, bangs, crashes, booms, doorbells, all waking me up when I was asleep. At first I fully woke up, wondering what I’d heard. But plainly it wasn’t real. The doorbell I heard wasn’t mine; it was too normal. I have these really nifty old-fashioned door chimes that don’t sound like a normal doorbell. The knocking was never at my door, and I knew it. It was too close to be my front door, and yet it didn’t seem to be inside the house at all. It seemed, in fact, to be knocking inside my head. Who could be knocking on a door inside my head? More invisible friends, I guessed.
When I was in the hospital after giving birth, a woman with slightly-longer-than-shoulder-length fluffy blonde hair and a white polyester double knit pantsuit came to visit me one day. She said something but I couldn’t hear her voice. I never even could see her face. In fact, I don’t think she had a face at all, just a blur. Nobody else saw her. She wasn’t dressed in scrubs like the nurses nor a habit like the nuns who oversaw the hospital. Another invincible friend, although possibly brought on by a bad reaction to blood pressure meds.
I know I tend to respond to drugs with wild dreams. Lisinopril, Amantadine, Zyrtec, Allegra, and others really mess with my sleeping brain. Dreams about hiding from vampires, dreams about finding a discarded gun and trying to hide it at a party, and the worst yet – the bad dream where I woke up to realize oh, thank goodness, I was only dreaming, only to wake up and realize that I hadn’t really woken up before, I was just dreaming that I woke up. But now I was truly awake, and only dreaming that I’d been awake. But then I woke up for real this time, and realized I had been dreaming that I woke up to realize I’d been dreaming that I woke up to realize I was dreaming. And on and on for several rounds of golly gee whiz, how do I get out of here?
Those were the drugs, for certain. The dreams only happened when I took the drugs. But what of the name calling? That has happened at all sorts of random times over the years.
And then there was the hand.
The hand is my latest invisible friend. It showed up last year, not long after my daughter moved out and I was left alone for the first time in my life. I had just fallen asleep one night when the hand appeared. It was above me, beside my bed, just a hand wearing a thin white glove, fading at wrist level into a black cloud. A lone hand, fingers stretched, reaching toward me. I jerked awake, opening my eyes, but it was gone.
Maybe it, too, was a side effect of a drug. At the time I was still taking Gabapentin. I rolled over, closed my eyes, and went to sleep.
But the hand returned, many times over the next many months. Never did it have a body. Never did it seem truly threatening, but every time, it reached silently for me. It faded into the same black smudge of a cloud. Yet another invisible friend, playing a trick on me? I never liked the hand. Even though it was never truly threatening, its appearance was vaguely disturbing. Maybe the hand was trying to get into my brain to knock on an imaginary door or ring a pretend doorbell.
Until last week. One night I was wide awake, rubber-ducking some ideas for blogs when all the sudden, the hand appeared. Off to my right side. But this time was different. This time, the hand came with a whole body, dressed in black leather from glove to boots, only it had no head. It stood in a small kitchen, wearing a frilly white apron printed with little green and red figures. Before I could do more than register its appearance, it reached out one black-gloved hand and slapped my face, as hard as it could. I yelled, “Leave me alone!” and at the same instant, it vanished.
There was no slap mark on my face, of course. Nothing was there. The headless body exists, it would seem, only in some strange part of my brain – not inside my skull, not outside it. I couldn’t point to it or touch it, and yelling probably had no effect, either, but this was getting weird. I had grown accustomed to these strangely-humored invisibles knocking and banging and ringing and calling my name when I was asleep, but the hand only showed up when I was wide awake.
A couple nights later, I came out of the bathroom, walking past my daughter’s unoccupied bedroom. Normally I keep the door closed, but that day I had been putting things away and had left the door open. As I stepped by the door, the hand was there with its headless, black-clad body. Its shoulders were as tall as my head, a good 68 inches off the floor. It stood there for an instant, nearly blending with the darkness of the bedroom. As I turned to look at it – not physically, mind you, but turned in my mind – it disappeared once again, faster than it showed up.
I don’t know what to think. Although I’d rather believe in invisible friends, I understand drug side effects. Something called “exploding head syndrome” that causes you to hear booms and bangs and such in your sleep. Hypnagogic hallucinations include hearing someone call your name as you’re falling asleep. But I’m just not sure about this floating hand. Is it like the woman in white whom I saw when I was awake in my hospital bed? She had no face, either. But she only appeared once. There was an account on the internet of English physicist named John Tyndall and an electric shock that caused him to see his own disembodied hands. But this hand isn’t mine. It’s completely separate. It never touches me or grabs me or takes control of my steering wheel like the ghost stories I’ve found. And it evaporates as soon as I realize it’s there.
I’m sure there’s a reason for it. Something organic, most likely. Everything else has an explanation. But maybe I’d rather believe it’s an invisible friend, playing a prank on me. I’ve had many invisible friends in my life, and some of them have been quite contrary, arguing with me, even getting angry with me. Maybe this is one of them.
I don’t know what the hand wants. Maybe next time I see it, I’ll have enough presence of mind to ask it. If it’s an invisible friend, it should answer me. If it isn’t, then maybe I need to do some further searching for answers.