Someone must have been spreading rumors about Gladstone because one morning, without warning, he awoke to an alarming e-mail from Cracked.com Editor In Chief, Jack OâBrien:
âYouâre through, Gladstone.âOn any other day, Gladstone would have attributed the noteâs ambiguous brevity to Jackâs crippling addiction to Madonna and techno raves. So many other Editorial notes had trailed off aimlessly while Jack chased chemically manufactured joy and glow sticks: âLike the new Hate By Numbers. Likeâ¦ a virgin. Whereâs my pacifier? My jaw hurts.â But this email was no mere rambling. It showed a dark certainty that Jack had not exhibited since mandating ass-less chaps Fridays at the Cracked offices. Gladstone turned from the screen and looked for comfort in his normal routine. But things had changed. Now when Gladstone shaved closely around his sideburns, a few gray hairs appeared. His navy blue suit, which had once been his HBN armor, showed fraying at the cuffs. And the leather-masked gimp in his basement revealed a zipper mouth of sadness (although, Bucholz might have just been in one of his moods). Through a Byzantine labyrinth of corridors and passageways, Gladstone found the Cracked offices, but was greeted only by Seanbaby and a closed door.
âNone shall pass,â he said, and Gladstone was struck that Seanbaby spoke like he wrote: with little cartoon bubbles appearing above his head. âPlease,â Gladstone urged. âI seek admittance. Iâve been the victim of a conspiracy.â Seanbaby sighed. âGladstone, behind this door, there is another. And another. Each with a guard bigger than the last. Each with instructions to deny your entry. Penis, penis, boner.â (Contractually, all Cracked columnists were obligated to go no longer than five sentences without a dick joke or penis reference. Gladstone, however, had negotiated for a one per 25 sentence quota, knowing full well that no one at Demand Media could count that high.) âIf you like,â Seanbaby offered, âyou may have a seat and ask again in awhile.â Gladstone turned to see two seats beside the door. One occupied by Robert Brockway. âRobert, are you also here to fight some unjust indignity that has befallen you?â âNope. Just waiting out the effects of last nightâs peyote party. Iâm still trippinâ balls.â âI see,â Gladstone said and cursed himself for thinking, however, briefly, that he could have an ally in this struggle. âFurthermore,â Brockway added, âpenis, penis, boner.â Just as all seemed lost, Seanbaby left his post to go Photoshop dirty things into a 1950s brochure about bomb shelters, and Gladstone seized the moment to step inside. There before him, stood a giant insect. âDan OâBrien? Is that you?â he asked. The insect raised human eyes up to the ceiling. Its twitching antennae forming accents of confusion. And despite the gross spectacle, Gladstone could still discern a trace of humanity in the creatureâs struggle to sit in an office chair when its hard shell dictated a less evolved posture. The insect opened its mandibles, craning its neck to generate some semblance of human speech. Part human, maybe, but was this monstrosity Dan OâBrien? âPenis, penis, boner.â Yeah, it was Dan. His sticky claws began clacking away on the keyboard, filling the screen with âpenis, penis, bonerâ hundreds of times. âDan!â Gladstone cried. âWhat metamorphosis has deprived you of your knack for comedic prose? What can we do?â Dan popped the insect mask off his costume and replied, âWhaddya mean? Just givinâ the people what they want. I found the one-to-five ratio too confining anyway.â Gladstone recoiled in horror. All his perceptions unreliable. All painful. âBut why are you dressed asâ¦â âFor Brockwayâs costume party. Well, it was a peyote party, but, yâknow, what fun are psychedelics without costumes? Sorry, Iâm still tripping balls.â âAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!â A blood curdling scream filled the offices and Gladstone ran to find its source. Still, even as he dodged through cubicles and corridors he wondered what he could do. And was he running to help, or to find another who shared his impending sense of dread? There, behind a door marked âNot Tortureâ was a bearded man strapped face down and shirtless to a table. Over the manâs back hung a large device most notable for an appendage containing a razor sharp writing implement. There was a rhythm to the armâs movements and as Gladstone approached he realized the razor pen was carving the same sentence into the victimâs skin, over and over, with increasingly deeper penetrations. Gladstone could now see the bloody writing hundreds of times across the manâs back: âI will not defy readersâ expectations. I will not defy readersâ expectations.â âOh! You must be Cody, the new guy! Like your stuff.â But Cody did not greet the kind words with the kind of appreciation Gladstone expected. In fairness, it might have been because a surgically sharp blade was carving an âxâ into Codyâs deepest layer of flesh at that very moment, but Gladstone still couldnât help but be appalled by the manners of kids today. He left Cody in the care of the device, confident all lessons that needed to be learned would be. Besides, the guyâs voice was really annoying. Now Gladstone had examined almost every crevice of the Cracked offices and still he was no closer to understanding why he was no longer part of this family. Why he had been cast out. Gladstone let loose the scream that had been building since morning, âWHY JACK? WHY?!â âIt wasnât me,â Jack whispered. Apparently, he had been standing next to Gladstone the whole time, and now he was pointing. âI take my orders from him.â Jack led Gladstone down a hall that seemed both intimately familiar and somehow unknown until they reached an office door. "Whose office is this?" Gladstone asked, but Jack was gone. Gladstone held the doorknob for a moment, fearing a truth worse than his paranoia. But, ultimately, he realized that whoever was on the other side of that door still worked for Cracked and, therefore, was likely functionally retarded. Gladstone opened the door, revealing the office to be his own, but now, Michael Swaim was sitting behind his desk. âSwaim!â âWayne! Come in. Have a seat.â âPlease, Michael. Call me Gladstone.â Swaim smiled warmly. âFine, if you prefer, Gladstone. But why all the animosity?â âDonât pretend, Michael. Jack told me everything. Youâre behind my termination. Look at you. Youâre already sitting behind my desk.â âOf course, I am. But Wayne, that's because if youâre searching for whoâs responsible, itâs you.â Gladstone looked closer. Swaim was wearing a navy blue jacket much like Gladstoneâs--only new. His hair was coarser and wavier than usual. And the part in his dress shirt revealed some sprouts of chest hair whereas Gladstone had recalled Swaim normally being smooth like a pubescent boy with a testosterone deficiency. âWait,â Gladstone murmured, âyouâreâ¦ me?â âOf course, I am. You donât think one website would actually have two numbered video shows do you? Iâm just a product of your twisted imagination. I mean,âSwaimâ? Whoâs ever heard of such a ridiculous name? Think about it, Wayne. I keep giving you clues, but you know what those letters stand for: Secretive Wayneâs Alternate Identity Michael. âNo, it canât be!â Gladstone protested. âIn your heart you know it's true,â Swaim insisted. âWhy else would no one call me out on stealing your jokes?â âBut even if what you say is true. Iâm not self-destructive?â âOh, really? Youâre not?â âNo.â âSo you think itâs a good idea for your future at Cracked.com to write a 1,000 word column, mocking your boss and colleagues while making allusions to a Czech writer from 100-years ago?â âI see your point.â âOf course, you do. Itâs yours.â Gladstone shut the door behind him and headed home. The next morning, his landlady would find him dead at his computer with the cursor still blinking at the end of one solitary and incomplete sentence: âPenis, penis, bon. . .
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