Statement of Tessa Winters, regarding a strange computer program she downloaded from the deep web three months ago. Statement recorded direct from subject.
Tessa Winters, a computer scientist, is not used to talking to people in person. She spends a good amount of time discussing the difference between analogue and digital, explaining that magnetic tapes are digital, not analogue. She also explained how it is impossible for a computer to store something as complex and messy as a human mind. She also went into some depth on misconceptions about the Dark Net or the Deep Web.
She was interested in chatbots, specifically ones designed to scare. There was one such chatbot which had transcended into legend within the bot writing community: the story of Sergey Ushanka.
In 1983, so the story goes, Ushanka was a digital guru who was diagnosed with some degenerative brain disease which would eventually kill him. In order to save his mind, he attempted to upload it into a computer. Stories of how he did this differed, some saying he tried to upload his mind into a system, some saying he wrote code in his own blood, and some saying he jammed his still living brain into his mother board. Regardless of how he got there, each telling of the story agrees that he was found at his computer surrounded by floppy discs. Over the years these floppy discs were stored and upgraded to CDs, then uploaded digitally.
Tessa explained that it has since gained underground popularity to make "Sergey Ushanka" bots--chat programs with pre-rendered replies, which generally start normally but eventually get more unsettling or sinister. Many different bots have been made of Ushanka; the only truly consistent elements are a specific image of a heavily pixelated face and the phrase "the angles cut me when I try to think", which marks the bot's descent into madness.
One day whilst browsing bot forums, Tessa found a post to a link to a file called 'Ushankas_Despair.exe'. She downloaded it and was surprised to see it was a little over 1Mb. Other people on the forums complained of a broken link, and she comments that she was likely the first person to click it.
The next day, at 2 AM, she sat down to run 'Ushankas_Despair.exe'. She was greeted with an old style text adventure screen. She wrote "Hello" and after about 15 seconds her screen filled with streams of symbols that made no sense; some even looked like they twitched as though in pain and it made her dizzy. There were a few English phrases like "HELPHELPHELP" and "It peels my mind like knives".
The fan on Tessa's computer started to whirr harshly, as though desperate to expel air, and she started to worry about malware. She crashed the laptop, turning off all the lights and the fan, but the program kept running. The text continued to scroll with phrases like "hihihihihi" and "you wanted to talk". Then, a grainy image of a pain-filled man in his thirties appeared. The camera was pointed up at him as he wept in front of his computer. He reached down and pulled one of the keys off his keyboard and placed it into his mouth, then started to chew, the hard plastic splitting his lips.
Tessa closed the laptop, turned all of her lights on and drank herself to sleep. She awoke in darkness to a crunching sound: her TV was on, displaying the same video but now with sound. She could hear the man muttering to himself in a Russian accent as he crunched his keyboard, saying "it feels like thinking through cheese wire" and "there's no feeling, but the no feeling hurts" and "it's cold without blood". He also repeated "It's cold" and "It hurts". He reached towards the monitor, pulled out a piece of glass and started to eat that too, all the while lit by the eerie glow of the screen.
Tessa pulled out all the cables attached to the TV and fled into the night. As she roamed, the video followed her: any screen she looked at for more than a moment transformed into the grisly scene of Ushanka's Despair. She would show it to friends who claimed to not see it. Eventually she sat down to watch all 17 hours of it. At the end, Ushanka smiled, lay down and said, "The maze is sharp on my mind. The angles cut me when I try to think." The back of his head was missing. The video remained static for 30 minutes before stopping. She never saw the video again.
John confirmed that he had nothing like this on file.
John posted on forums online on the pretence of gathering statements from people who worked in tech, but actually tried to find someone who could hack into Gertrude's computer. Tessa was able to give him access.
During his supplemental Tim enters and the two get into an argument: apparently Jonathan has spent a lot of time carefully going over the CCTV footage of the Magnus Institute, but is still clearly paranoid. Tim used to work in research before Jonathan invited him to the Archive, and Tim hates it. Jonathan tells him to quit, but he is not able to, and Jonathan isn't able to fire him. Jonathan says he suspects it is the Archives, and he doesn't know who is victim and who is an agent.
|ATTENTION! SPOILERS AHEAD!!|
This section contains information from later episodes of The Magnus Archives and may contain major spoilers for the setting and plot. Continue at your own risk.
- Related Entity: The Spiral
- Binary contains traits of multiple entities such as The Eye from being forced to watch.
- It has also been theorized that it may be connected to The Extinction given the connection to technology taking over humanity.
- It was confirmed in the Patreon exclusive of the season 4 Q&A that this episode was intended to be the Spiral but is open to interpretation.
- Tessa is shown to have recurring nightmares about being forced to eat a keyboard in MAG 120 due to her giving a statement to John.