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 visit him he is alone. He greets me at the door, kisses me on both cheeks and slaps me around the head - fairly standard greeting. Then he speaks.
"Want computer machine for flat."
"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 get him a computer. By this point there are three or four women always looking after him whenever I go round. I never learn their names, but they are all very friendly and lovely and give 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 starts acting a little...off. Nobody notices straight away, but slowly it becomes apparent. It's really hard to define and nobody is too worried because he is old and it's probably just a phase or him aging or whatever, but something is definitely up. He seems...somehow nervous. He stops answering the phone, becomes a little quiet, things like that.
I turn up one day and he has a sleeping bag in the living room. I ask him what it's for and he tells me that someone called Helen insisted he start sleeping in the living room. I go into his bedroom and it's clear he hasn't slept in there for a while. I ask him why, but he becomes visibly upset and downgrades his English to avoid the conversation. For some reason I get it into my head that Helen is the Greek lady who agreed to help him with his computer. I manage to press him into talking about her some more, but all he will say is that she's very pretty and helps him with his emails. I ask why he's sleeping in the living room and he still won't tell me. Next time I visit he is back in the bedroom again.
I have a busy month and don't see him for a while, so when I knock on his front door and he doesn't answer, I panic. I have a key, so I let myself in, fearing the worst. He is sat in the living room, staring into space. The room is a mess - mostly plates and glasses, but also dirty clothes. He looks thinner than I have ever seen him and is wearing stained clothes.
There is a table stacked up against the bedroom door. I figure he has gone crazy, and it makes me really panicky and upset to see my grandfather in such a state. I ask him what happened to all the people who used to come and check on him, and he eventually admits that he has driven them away 'because Helen told me'. I start worrying that Helen is some kind of imaginary friend or schizophrenia, but it all seems too much like a movie. I push him and push him on the issue but he remains silent.
Until I try and go in his bedroom.
He flips out, practically leaps out of the chair and claws at me to get away. He starts telling me that Helen will burn the flat down if we go inside, and that it's Helen's room now. It hits me hard to see him like it, and I step outside so he won't see me break down. As soon as I move away from the door he drifts back into his vaguely comatose state.
I phone my mum and panic a little bit down the phone, she tells me to stay calm and she'll phone up the local medical services or whatever. Just as she's saying goodbye I hear this TERRIFYING scream from inside my granddad's flat. I jump so hard I drop my phone down the flight of stairs. When I run in my granddad is still sat in the chair, shivering as his eyes fill with tears. "Helen," he says before I even ask. "Sometime she scream."
I can't even describe half of the shit going through my head at this 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 throw the table aside, my granddad flips out again, but I don't let him stop me. His bedroom is empty. The wardrobe is empty, the bed is made. If it wasn't so dusty it could be a showroom.
A bit later some medical/council types turn up, then so does 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 hasn't been able to get in contact again (cause my phone got busted). I explain things to the best of my ability, but I'm pretty shaken up. Everyone shrugs off the scream when they see my granddad. He refuses to talk to anyone properly, but eventually gets 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 is in hospital he keeps going on about making sure his bedroom is closed up and nobody goes in there. They think it's him just being crazy, but I'm convinced there is something going on. I go back and tidy up his house, plug his phone back in, pop to the local supermarket and restock his fridge with food. I'm 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 jump the fuck out of my skin. I swear the voice came from his bedroom so I go on inside. Again, nothing.
It takes 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 move the mouse, screen clicks and flickers, the desktop comes into focus and BAM! I see a horrifying shape. I freak the fuck out and cover my eyes, leaving a tiny slit to see the start button.
I open up word just to cover the thing on the desktop and after about five minutes I work 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'm distracted by a couple of things.
Firstly I get this feeling of being watched, like, my hair stands on end and my spine tingles and all that sort of stuff. I keep glancing at the window and feel like there's going to be this face there. I laugh 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 decide 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.