Statement of Joel Boike, regarding the disappearance of a member of his gaming club.
Originally taken July 26, 2012.
Recorded by Geoffrey Kurtz, Head Archivist of the Riptide Study.


Statement begins:


You may have heard about “the incident.” Regardless of what they say, I’ve always been a rather introverted person. I think that’s why I got into gaming, you always had time to read the rules before going out and playing with others. So last Fall, I found myself single and wallowing at my bedroom window, watching the birds. I don’t remember exactly what it was that got me out the apartment for the first time in weeks. I found myself at the local card shop down the street, where I saw a flyer for a gaming club that met every Wednesday night.

I did not know any of the people I saw that night, but I allowed myself to get over the anxiety long enough to convince myself to at least passively participate. And I really enjoyed myself. It gave me a place to belong or at least somewhere to be once a week. Like how my dad always pushed us to make our beds every morning. “You’ve accomplished the first task of the day,” he’d always say. With Gaming Club, I could say that at least I went somewhere for leisure. Did something for me.

Although Gaming Club was open to playing anything, week after week a sizable group overtook more table space to play this casual Magic: the Gathering format they called Commander. I had never played Magic, but I remember people talking about it at length during high school. To be completely honest, I thought it had disappeared along with Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. Nevertheless, one of the players convinced me to buy some of the limited stock of sealed products the shop had on hand to join one night back in March.

The experience reminded me of my time playing League of Legends. You picked an avatar that best exemplified how you wanted to play the game and could get invested in that character. I got very invested in my hero, Zedruu, exchanging monsters and enchantments with other players for my own life and card draw.

My experience changed one week. To my surprise, an estranged high school friend, Jacob Michałowski, entered the shop and sat down at a table across the room. I knew it was him right away; Jacob’s laugh has always reminded me of Seth Rogen, and now his build did too. Except for his hair, now in very loose dreadlocks. I went over to chat, but we didn’t have a lot of time to catch up before my games began. He had said he moved back to town from Austin, TX after an ugly break-up.

Jacob sightings were pretty infrequent week to week, if memory serves; but during a storm one afternoon, I rode the bus home from work. As I was getting off, I noticed Jacob driving in his car down my street, turning into the far end of the parking lot that snaked around the apartment complex. There were five buildings, so it seemed impossible to know in an instant which he lived in.

Putting this all down on paper now, I realize how unusual it was that we’d never seen each other outside of Gaming Club or why I never addressed this with him. I think there was a part of me that wanted my home life to be separate from anything I did at work or as a hobby. Acknowledging that Jacob and I lived in the same apartment complex would have been too much “crossing the streams” for me.

Still, I didn’t think much about the development or what it might mean for my safety until one night a few weeks back. Jacob came into the card shop very disheveled and sat down across the table from me. I noticed that his deck box had stains on it, minimal and almost like deep red paint. Moments later he wiped his eyes with his hands and I noticed veiny bruising on his palms going up his arms.

“That’s a severe case of eczema you got there,” I commented, knowing it certainly wasn’t eczema.

“Don’t worry about that,” he scowled, quickly moving his hands to his lap. “I just fell in my kitchen the other night.”

His tone had such disdain. If he was covering something up, he did a great job making me feel stupid for even showing concern.

It was common for people to bring a deck they had built from scratch to Gaming Club, and I remember the week Jacob showed up with suspiciously wounded hands, he brought a new deck built around copying creatures. He talked so intently about the soul of his deck and how he’d tested it painstakingly to fully encompass its soul. This public display of theatrics got some strange looks, but was very “on brand” for the Jacob I knew. For me, it was rather embarrassing to be sitting next to him while it was happening.

The night before the incident, I remember being at Game Night, shuffling a few new cards into my deck which I had bought in celebration of accepting a new position at my company. That was when someone who I could only describe as a gray, sickly individual in lumpy clothes and thin blonde hair walked into the card shop. Their presence gave me pause, but I seemed to be the only one who thought this individual’s presence was at all out of place. Then, one of the other players welcomed him and he moved to sit down next to me.

“You getting in on this one, Jacob?” they asked.

My vision trained on this individual sitting next to me for a few seconds too long. He turned his head and greeted me, knowingly. This was not anyone I’d recognized and it certainly was not Jacob. But when he opened his satchel and pulled out Jacob’s deck from a few weeks prior, my skin began to crawl. His eyes met mine and a smile formed at  the corner of his face.

When another player came over and asked this thing if he had any trades, I excused myself from the table, out of the card shop, and down the street home. I tried to reason out what was going on, why everyone acted so unaware. As I hurried home, I pulled out my phone to look for evidence of Jacob somewhere. Looking around in panic, I navigated to the card shop’s Twitter, looking for any promotional images from Gaming Club. And that’s when I found it, reaching the prerelease from the month before. I stopped for a second in the parking lot in disbelief as photographed across from me sat my gangling pale opponent, the individual who was very much not Jacob. I nearly dropped my phone.

Rattling the key into the door of my apartment and ascending the staircase up to my apartment, I couldn’t shake the pressing feeling I was being followed. Once safely in my apartment, I slumped down on my kitchen floor. Eventually I made my way into the bedroom, toppling over boxes in my closet until I found my high school yearbooks. Among all our classmates, above Jacob’s name sat a picture of a pale greasy child grinning out at me. I flipped to the orchestra, again in dismay. Then to the debate team, where a neon-haired Jacob looked back at me, my friend, incorrectly labeled “Jakob” by the yearbook staff.

I fell back against my desk, weeping with joy for a few moments. I wasn’t crazy. Then a shiver struck the back of my neck. The feeling of being watched crept back into my mind. My head shot around to find an empty bedroom, yet the feeling continued to press upon me. I went over to the window and shifted the blinds slightly. For the briefest of moments relief washed over me, there was nothing outside my window. Then a lamp in the fourth story window across the foyer lit up, the silhouette of Jacob’s replacement, his eyes trained on me.

The blood drained from my face. My hands went numb as I studied his form. His arms had too many elbows. After what felt like an eternity, I could see the faintest smile lurch across their face before the blinds dropped and the apartment across from me went dark. Without missing a beat, I ran to my front door and ensured that it was locked and deadbolted. This was the first time in months that I wished I still lived with my ex.

Once back in my room, I moved my bookcase in front of my bedroom door and positioned my mattress up against my window, reinforcing it with all the available furniture in my room. I hollowed out a spot in my closet and I sat, waiting in silence for hours, my vision fixed on my bed covering the window.

At points I thought, whatever that thing was, it just wanted to scare me, or it was waiting to pick me off if I tried going to the police. Then I thought, if the whole card shop couldn’t tell the difference, how would the police? This fear consumed my thoughts and I realized too late that I had lost focus. Until  a thumping from the other side of the wall brought my focus back. The last thing I remember was the sound of nondescript clicking before the bookcase spilled onto the floor in front of me and a large object swung into my view, throwing me into the closet wall.

I was awoken by what I could best describe as the clicking sound of the Predator from Predator. I was laying in a pool of sweat on the floor, the temperature of the room was uncomfortably hot. I realized it must be Jacob’s apartment, there were ashtrays everywhere and all the windows were now covered by duct-taped newspaper. On the far side of the room, Jacob’s replacement sat. Its eyes were clammy and a clicking was building up in its throat, it never looked away from me.

I asked it what it was going to do with me. It sat for a moment before standing up. As it began to step towards me, I rushed to my feet, reaching for anything I could. My hand was met with Jacob’s satchel and I swung it feebly at my captor, instead striking the wall. I must have broken something, because the impostor hesitated for a second as the bag crashed to the floor.

Rushing to the door, I was met with an entryway that was entirely taped over. I looked back at the beast; it was looking at the bag in a panic. Then, its eyes met mine again and I instinctively ran for the kitchen. There I found my only salvation, a half-empty block of knives. Armed with a steak and butcher knife, I began wildly swinging, hitting nothing as I made my way back towards the large set of windows the monster had been watching me from before.

I put my whole body into jumping at the windows, met with the sound of cracking glass. I was not free yet. I fell to the floor, atop Jacob’s bag. In my blurred vision. I could see the monster walking towards me. Directly in front of me, I saw a pile of cards. Somehow, I knew this was what the beast had cared so much about. A greasy hand reached around my leg to pull me away, this was my last chance.

I plunged the butcher knife through the pile of cards and the not Jacob released me, doubling over in what looked like tormenting pain. Its mouth agape, chittering filled the air as it wrangled. So many elbows. That was the last thing I remember before bashing the window open, watching the body contort until finally the monster sparked into flame.

Please, I am not an arsonist. They say I tried to burn down an entire apartment complex in a fit of rage. You have to believe me. Please, you have to believe me. Something is out there.


Statement ends.


Archival notes:

We investigated Mr. Boike’s story. A Jacob Michałowski did live in the former apartment complex and our contact at the police station confirmed that a missing persons report was filed for him on July 5, 2020. This matches the date of a fire occurring at the complex.

At this time we are unable to corroborate much more of the story. Mr. Michałowski seemed to be a fairly private person, leaving us with little to no photographic evidence that can conclusively point to his appearance. At this time we are ruling that Mr. Boike may simply need psychiatric help.

(Monster inspired in part by the NotThem from The Magnus Archives.)

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH and the EDH community. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.

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