THE HAMPTONS - The numbers are in, and it doesn't look good for one of America's most hallowed extracurricular traditions. Harvard, Princeton, and Yale all report that pain cult membership has been declining rapidly since 2007, and membership is only a tenth of what it was in the '70s.
Alumni from all three universities expressed "regret" over the decline. "I remember when I was just a timid freshman back in '88," recalled linguistics professor Dr. Meredith Williams of the University of Clyde Hill. "I was coming from some school in Texas nobody'd ever heard of with no friends and no confidence, but when I joined a pain cult I was making connections over the flaying tables that have turned into lifelong friendships, and there's nothing that boosts your self-esteem quite like the performing the Seven Excruciations of the Pit while a horde of bloodthirsty grad students cheers you on. It's sad to know that today's students are losing that opportunity."
Analysts at Harvard have pinned the blame for the decline of pain cults on social media and tricky witches, noting that services like Facebook are slowly making pain cults irrelevant. "These days it's easier to find a peer group to connect with on Facebook than flit around trying to find the right pain cult for your interests," explained social media expert Dr. Mbogo Matiba, who teaches a course on the effects of the internet on social organization and standard mind control techniques. "The upshot is that while people are still forming social bonds, knowledge of the ancient ways of pain and supplication is no longer something people are leaving college with, and that can leave students without vital life skills."
The decline of pain cults has lead to still other unexpected consequences, as residents of Cambridge, MA are finding out. "It's had a disastrous impact on our community," said Mayor Lucy Morgenstern. "The streets are overflowing with mutants and the snivelling underclass that routine pain cult abduction used to keep under control. We've had to raise taxes to create a flamethrower brigade, and the thirsting gods who grew fat off the countless sacrifices in their dread names have begun to stir and make their displeasure known on our community now that those sacrifices aren't coming in like they used to."
But not everyone sees the decline as a negative. "We're in a transitional period," argues Dr. Matiba. "Pain cults performed a vital function in our society, and now that they're declining, insitutions will shift organically and adapt to fill the roles that aren't being filled. So any downsides are temporary, and you're already seeing some internet-based organizations promoting the Way of the Serrated Knife, which brings the rites of old to many less advantaged students who never had access to the sort of schools with active pain cults."
At press time, something vast, dark, and terrible was looming over Cambridge as though rising from an ancient sleep.
Sergei Bogdanov is Approved News 6's higher education correspondent. Born in Kaliningrad, Russia, Bogdanov emigrated to America with his family in 1989 to escape the prophesied Third Bonewraith Rampage, and in 2004 graduated top of his class from the University of Oregon School of Journalism. He is currently the Charles J. Bloodhorn Chair of Applied Sociology at Yale University, and lives in the Great Connecticut Undercroft with his legions of sycophantic grad students.