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Helen

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My Grandpa is a strange man. I'm forced to go into some detail about him here because it sort of explains some of my actions later on. He is Greek and in his mid-seventies. I speak no Greek and this makes conversations with him a nightmare. It essentially degenerates into me talking to him and him pretending he doesn't understand and begrudgingly barking English nouns at me until I can decode what he is telling me.

The thing is, his English is fluent. I love him, but he is infuriating. He is capable of immense generosity and compassion, but he reserves it for very strange times. For instance, when my sister was fifteen she stole a hundred pounds from her boyfriend and broke up with him shortly after. My granddad insisted on giving the kid the money to replace what my sister stole. As he has gotten older he has gone through some strange phases. He's never been THAT out there, just little things here and there.

Earlier this year my nana died, and he moved out of his house to a little flat in North London. The flats are nice; he has a little view and a load of really friendly neighbors. I was worried he would upset people, but the first time I went to visit there were a gang of kids doing his shopping for him and a woman watering his plants. Everyone said how charming he was. He got a little panicked when I arrived because it was clear he had been speaking better English to these people than he pretended to know in front of me.

The second time I visited him he was alone. He greeted me at the door, kissed me on both cheeks and slapped me around the head - fairly standard greeting. Then he speaks.

"Want computer machine for flat."

"What?"

"I want a computer machine, everyone have computer machine, now I want one. Will send internet email to friends in Greece. Read websites. Order food and drinks and shopping. You sort out for me?"

"Um...sure, you know how to use a computer Grandpa?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I work computers for years at work, make orders at the factory, you stupid if you don't think I can."

So we got him a computer. By this point there where three or four women always looking after him whenever I go round. I never learned their names, but they are all very friendly and lovely and gave me food and stuff. My sister jokingly calls them "Grandpa's bitches" and the name sticks.

On the plus side, one of them speaks Greek which means she acts as a 'translator' between me and my grandpa whenever she is about, which speeds conversations up ten-fold. She tells me that she'll help him sort out the internet because she uses it all the time. I get a few emails from him and the lady, a few Fwd:fwd:fwd:fwd:fwd things, some prayer circle stuff. He actually does quite well online from what I can tell. After a week he sends me all these photos of Greek babies who are the grandkids of people he grew up with back home.

Lots of stuff happens, but it's all very vague and would take too long to type out to any real level of clarity. Over the next few months my Grandpa started acting a little...off. Nobody noticed straight away, but slowly it became apparent. It's really hard to define and nobody was too worried because he is old and it's probably just a phase or him aging or whatever, but something was definitely up. He seems...somehow nervous. He stopped answering the phone, became a little quiet, things like that.

I turned up one day and he had a sleeping bag in the living room. I asked him what it's for and he told me that someone called Helen insisted he start sleeping in the living room. I went into his bedroom and it's clear he hadn't slept in there for a while. I asked him why, but he became visibly upset and downgraded his English to avoid conversation. For some reason I got it into my head that Helen was the Greek lady who agreed to help him with his computer. I managed to press him into talking about her some more, but all he said is that she's very pretty and helps him with his emails. I asked why he's sleeping in the living room but he didn't tell me. The next time I visited he was back in his bedroom again.

I had a busy month and didn't see him for a while, so when I knocked on his front door and he didn't answer, I panicked. I had a key, so I let myself in, fearing the worst. He was sitting in the living room, staring into space. The room was a mess - mostly plates and glasses, but also dirty clothes. He looked thinner than I had ever seen him and he also was wearing stained clothes.

There was a table stacked up against the bedroom door. I figured he had gone crazy, and it made me really panicky and upset to see my grandfather in such a state. I asked him what happened to all the people who used to come and check on him, and he eventually admitted that he had driven them away 'because Helen told me'. I started worrying that Helen was some kind of imaginary friend or schizophrenia, but it all seemed too much like a movie. I pushed him and pushed him on the issue but he remained silent.

Until I tried to go in his bedroom.

He flipped out, practically leapt out of the chair and clawed at me to get away. He started telling me that Helen would burn the flat down if we went inside, and that it's Helen's room now. It hit me hard to see him like it, and I stepped outside so he wouldn't see me break down. As soon as I moved away from the door he drifted back into his vaguely comatose state.

I phoned my mum and panicked a little bit down the phone, she told me to stay calm and she'd phone up the local medical services or whatever. Just as she said goodbye I heard this TERRIFYING scream from inside my granddad's flat. I jumped so hard I dropped my phone down the flight of stairs. When I ran in my granddad was still in the chair, shivering as his eyes filled with tears. "Helen," he said before I even asked. "Sometimes she screams."

I can't even describe half of the shit going through my head at that point. I'm ashamed to admit that my primary theory was that my grandfather had somehow trapped one of his 'bitches' in his room and tortured her or something, which sounds so awful, but I was panicking. I threw the table aside, my granddad flipped out again, but I didn't let him stop me. His bedroom was empty. The wardrobe was empty, the bed is made. If it wasn't so dusty it could've been a showroom.

A bit later some medical/council types turned up, so did my mum, my sister, my sister's boyfriend and a friend of my dad's. Apparently my mum heard the scream, the line went dead and she hadn't been able to get in contact again (because my phone got busted). I explained things to the best of my ability, but I was pretty shaken up. Everyone shrugedd off the scream when they see my granddad. He refused to talk to anyone properly, but eventually got carted off to hospital for malnutrition. Doctors later informed my mum that he probably hadn't eaten more than microwave chips (fries) for about a week, and hardly anything at all for three days.

Whilst he was in hospital he kept going on about making sure his bedroom is closed up and that nobody goes in there. They thought it's him just being crazy, but I was convinced there was something going on. I went back and tidied up his house, plugedd his phone back in, popped to the local supermarket and restocked his fridge with food. I was just working up to going back in the bedroom when I hear a girl's voice.

"You've been a baaaaaaaaad booooooooy," I remember it just like that, with long elongated words. Once again, I jumped the fuck out of my skin. I swear the voice came from his bedroom so I went inside. Again, nothing.

It took me about five minutes to even think of checking the computer. It seems so obvious now, but at the time I was upset, panicking, terrified of ghosts even. It's really hard to quite explain the mindset I was in. I moved the mouse, the screen clicked and flickered, the desktop came into focus and BAM! I saw a horrifying shape. I freaked the fuck out and covered my eyes, leaving a tiny slit to see the start button.

I opened up word just to cover the thing on the desktop and after about five minutes I worked up the courage to shrink it down. To this day I don't definitely know what it was, but I'm pretty sure it was a skinned horse or something like it, maybe a cow. Pretty tame for the internet I'm sure, but I avoid gore stuff so it's a bit of a shock to me. I have no idea why my granddad would set it as his background, but I was distracted by a couple of things.

Firstly I got this feeling of being watched, like, my hair stood on end and my spine tingled and all that sort of stuff. I kept glancing at the window and felt like there's going to be this face there. I laughed it off because I know I'm being a dick. I'm not saying there was anything legitimately spiritual going on, I'm just saying I was so shaken up that I was freaking a little bit. Secondly, there are hundreds of things installed on Grandpa's computer. Every few seconds there is another pop-up screen, another reminder, another notification.

I decided to check out how this all happened and go to his internet history, fully prepared to discover my grandpa's taste in pornography, but according to the history he hasn't used the internet for weeks. I load up SA, just to check that it's working, and a voice comes through the speakers.

"Oooh Ooooh baby! Yeah fuck me like that! Fuck that pussy! Oh shit! Oh shit!"

Then there's a gunshot.

I minimize the window, the skinned horse has been replaced by a far tamer image - the famous one of a lynching. A bunch of folks are standing around a hanging black guy. At this point I turn off the speakers. I take a deep breath and rationalize what is happening. I decide that grandpa has overloaded his computer with shit, accepting every download etc. and has got something malicious on his computer. I start loading up tons of anti-virus stuff, running spybot and the like, trying to clear everything off. Then I get an instant message. It pops up from the toolbar and although it is clearly fake, void of any distinguishing marks of genuine IM-clients, I see the name. Helen. I open the window and everything becomes clear.

Helen is effectively some kind of violent BonziBuddy. She appears occasionally, walks along the screen, dances, and blows kisses. Over the course of an hour I realize what is going on, no doubt miles behind anyone still bothering to read this. She gives me demands, flashes the screen with shock images of various graphicness. She plays pornographic or shock audio files seemingly at random, but also makes genuine threats. To me, they are laughable; to my grandfather they must have been terrifying. She did things like threaten to send racist emails to his entire address book.

She made vague threats about sending real people to his I.P. address. She insisted he surrender his bedroom to her and sleep elsewhere or she would 'overheat your processor and burn down your house'. She claimed that he had visited illegal websites, and that by downloading X program, he could clear the cache'.

She also made very vague predictions in the vein of a medium 'I see you there, leaning on your elbow' or 'nice outfit, blue looks good on you' or whatever. Again, to computer literate people it seems so stupid, but I choke up imagining my grandpa, shivering as he fell asleep in the living room chair for a week, convinced the lady on his computer can see him.

In the end I took the computer away, then went around and apologized/ explained to all his neighbors about what had happened. I don't think most of them really understood.

The happy ending is that he went back to the house and returned to his normal self almost immediately once he saw the computer was gone. Now I go and collect him and take him to the library to use email. He still won't talk about it, so where Helen came from I am still clueless about. Google searches have proved useless, but somebody else might be able to find something. Would be interested to see what comes up.

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