The Distortion is a manifestation or avatar of the Spiral. Its current form was created when it was merged with former archival assistant Michael Shelley as part of Gertrude Robinson's plan to stop The Spiral's ritual. Shelley was later replaced by Helen Richardson.
The Distortion’s appearance is flexible in nature. As Michael, it appears as a 6.5 foot tall male with long curly straw blonde hair and a round face, or as a human-like being with a thin, limp body with huge, pointed hands that are as large as its torso. Its distorted form is visible if it is viewed through warped glass or in a reflection.
It is also a series of windowless corridors covered in paintings, photographs and the occasional mirror. It has electric lamps about every ten feet and carpeted floor with a rug running down the middle.
When Helen Richardson first encounters it, the corridors have green wallpaper covered in a swirling pattern, yellow carpeting, and a black rug. These colours are mutable and seem to shift over time.
The Distortion is first mentioned by Ivo Lensik in when he mentioned his father, who claimed to have been followed by someone who looks like "all the bones are in his hands". His father was also obsessed with fractals, a common manifestation of The Spiral. This would have occurred prior to it being forced into the form of 'Michael,' implying that it has taken humanoid form in the past, though whether that was its choice or not is unclear.
The Distortion became Michael when Gertrude Robinson stopped The Spiral's ritual by sacrificing her assistant Michael Shelley.
and is heard on a tape of hers in September 2007 trying to be helpful, while she hides her true activities from him. Gertrude takes Michael on a trip to Sannikov Land to disrupt the ritual of The Spiral, though she sacrificed Michael to do so.
It later approaches Sasha to warn her about the oncoming attack by Jane Prentiss and the Flesh Hive, going so far as to show Sasha that fire extinguishers could kill the worms, and then removed a worm from her.
It next shows up to the house tour Helen Richardson is giving, refusing to shake her hand while in human form, and in its distorted form in the coloured corridors that she later got lost in. Michael approached Jonathan Sims after he took Helen's statement, taking her back to the corridors. When asked if it owned these corridors, it suggested that it owns the corridors in the same way that your hand owns your stomach. It alluded to a war that was going on, and that the destruction of the Magnus Archives would sway the war too much in one way, although it claimed to be a neutral party.
The Distortion torments a woman with insomnia losing her grip on reality, repeatedly appearing to her to taunt her.
It returns to the Magnus Institute following the destruction of the Web Table by Jonathan Sims, offering him a doorway away from the unbound NotThem, comparing its viewing of the events to a "sport." It then traps Martin and Tim in its corridors for a period of time to prevent them from assisting Jonathan.
Michael's final appearance is to a kidnapped Jonathan Sims, currently in the custody of Nikola Orsinov. Michael gives Jon a statement regarding how Gertrude sacrificed her assistant Michael Shelley to stop The Great Twisting, an event which merged Michael with The Distortion. Michael says that it is here to kill Sims, but before it gets the chance, it screams and is replaced by Helen Richardson. Helen says that Michael had gotten distracted, and now that it is gone, and she will take its place.
In MAG 115, Helen comes back to John, asking for help and saying that she wants to feel better. John accuses her of pretending to be Helen, to which she replies that she is Helen, but she is not sure if she was meant to be. She tells him she took an old man to feed The Spiral, but that it felt wrong, that Helen "wasn't ready." John is suspicious of her sincerity, but Helen tells him she has never lied to him. When she implies she and John have something in common, as he is becoming The Archivist, he gets angry and shouts at her to leave.
She seems to become more confident in her identity, however. In MAG 131 it is revealed that she helped the Institute during The Flesh's attack and has been assisting the Archives since. She insists that she is still Helen Richardson and that people change. She gives John access to the Boneturner, and says she supports what he is doing and is happy to provide assistance. Helen and Melanie seem to be on friendly terms, and when Melanie asks her where the Boneturner ended up, she replies that "he found a door" and "the door may have been in a wall some distance above a river."
John occasionally goes down to the tunnels to visit Helen. They discuss what it means to be an avatar of a fear entity, and Helen encourages John to embrace his role and powers as The Archivist just as she embraced her role as the Distortion. She says that Helen, like John now, used to feel bad about overtaking people, but that she chose to stop caring when she realised her feelings would not change things. (MAG 146, MAG 152)
In MAG 157, John goes to Helen to ask if she will bring him to the centre of the tunnels to stop whatever Peter is doing with Martin, but she refuses. She says that it will be more fun if he does not know. He tries to compel her to tell him, but she threatens to stab him again and promises that if he tries to compel her again one of them would not survive the confrontation. John is desperate to find out what is going on, but Helen does not tell him, just says that bad things are coming. She seems delighted at the whole affair, and we can now often hear her laughter, sounding more and more like Michael's eerie, resonating laugh.
In MAG 164 John and Martin encounter Helen again. She talks to them as if they are old friends and offers her friendship in the world that is. John rebukes her, but Martin seems interested, as he puts it "Who else is there?".
Bold marks episodes where The Distortion has given a statement.
- ↑ MAG 26: A Distortion
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 MAG 47: The New Door
- ↑ MAG 8: Burned Out
- ↑ MAG 99: Dust to Dust
- ↑ The exact date of Michael’s merging with The Distortion is unclear. Gertrude had lost all her assistants by 2011, and according to MAG 126, The Great Twisting took place some time after October 2009, placing Michael's transformation between October 2009 and 2011. This conflicts with the events detailed in MAG 167, which suggests he was part of the Distortion before the death of Agnes Montague, which occurred in 2006.
- ↑ MAG 26: A Distortion
- ↑ MAG 74: Fatigue
- ↑ MAG 78: Distant Cousin
- ↑ MAG 79: Hide and Seek
- ↑ MAG 80: The Librarian
- ↑ MAG 101: Another Twist