The Pretty People by Dakota James

Friday, September 8, 2017
When Dakota James's character loses weight he becomes so attractive he's invited to join the secret cabal of pretty people.

The following story is an excerpt from Dr. Robicheaux's CABRET AWARD WINNING book, The Pretty People: Psychoses Behind the Masks and Mascara. The interviewee in this excerpt asked to remain anonymous; with the exceptions of certain names, nothing from this interview has been edited, removed, or added for publication.

It always confused me to see attractive people do bad things. They could've gone through life with such relative ease, I thought. But that wasn't true, exactly; pretty people have their own set of issues. For example, one day, thinking it over, I realized I didn't know a single sane attractive person. They'd all lost their fucking minds.

No one likes to think of themselves as ugly. I'm no different. But I was a bigger boy than most and then a bigger man than some, so I wasn't exactly sexy. Not by traditional standards.

Without going into too much detail, there was a day in my late twenties my doctor told me that something had to change or else I'd be on the fast-track to life-threatening obesity, among other things. So I made some changes, nothing extreme, just little incremental things like abstaining from sodas, candy, meals that involved whole wheels of cheese, fried foods, beer, etc. - not all at once, but little by little.

Alongside these dietary adjustments, I exercised some too. The key was to start slow. To not overwhelm myself trying to upend my whole lifestyle overnight.

Basically I wanted to extend my life some several years and not have to spend too much of it as an obese person. I understand for some people it's not as easy as it sounds, and that's fair; big life changes can be simple in theory, but that don't make them easy. If someone told me to explain how I did what I did, I'd say, "Well, sometimes it felt a little like being held at gunpoint. Except I was also holding the gun."

So when I turned thirty, after almost two years of this new health regime, people asked me if I wasn't turning 25. And it sort of felt like it, actually.

But something else was happening too. I was getting noticed. And the thing about attention is, like anything else that feels good, there ain't never enough of it, especially when you're getting it for the first time.

I got a little crazy for wanting more. And the better-looking I got, the more I wanted it. I finally got a six-pack after half-starving myself for three months, at which point I was approached by a beautiful woman with long dark hair and skin like a poison apple.

The beautiful woman told me her name was Hashoon, to which I said, "Bless you."

It turned out she hadn't sneezed, and that furthermore, she had never sneezed or even blown her nose her whole life. She went so far as to swear she'd never heard of allergies, but I came to realize that was just the way of the pretty people: if it was a little nasty or a little gross, they simply refused to acknowledge its existence.

Hashoon must've intuited that I'd begun to get anxious that I wasn't going to get any prettier, that the only direction I had left to go was down, because without prompting her, she told me that there was a place for people like her and I where the "ceiling of beauty" was lifted, so to speak - a members-only club for the most attractive people in the world. Of course at the time I thought she was talking about a convention or something, not a full-scale multi-billion dollar underground operation.

In time I learned that Hashoon had sort of lied to me: the ceiling of beauty wasn't lifted by this operation. In fact, it almost felt lowered, since being aware that there was a whole society of beautiful people out there made you feel a lot less special.

Instead, the pretty people were trying to blow out the floor. You could make pretty people prettier, in a sense, if you made ugly people uglier. Which was one of the most evil things I'd ever heard of.

But at the time it seemed genius, and though I'm ashamed to say it, it seemed as such because that's what I wanted. Most of my mind had been lost by then, reoriented to be concerned only with how good I looked. All I'd soon have left was my body. I imagined what it would feel like - total and all-encompassing confidence, freedom from the restraints of self-awareness, no guilt, no doubts, no shame.

Soon after our first meeting, Hashoon gave me a tour of the headquarters. I assumed that an evil operation like theirs would have its headquarters underground, somewhere dark, dank, and expansive, like a cave, but the pretty people had their headquarters on the penthouse floor of a downtown high-rise; it was the roof access they wanted. No one would get any sun underground, Hashoon explained to me. Just imagine what it would do to their complexion.

"One bite of this," Hashoon said in the Culinary Development Lab, a high-tech kitchen, as she pointed at a particularly buttery-looking slice of pumpkin pie, "And along with the acne that will inevitably plague your face like some epidermic Black Death, you'll gain two pounds almost immediately without any feeling of satiety at all."

The pie was on sale for cheap at a lot of supermarkets. And don't get me on started on some of the fast-food developments she showed me that day.

Their annual celebration was held the day before Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was the pretty people's favorite holiday because of all the weight people put on, but most of them still had families to go home to despite the fact that they were plotting against them behind their backs (Hashoon's son had a thyroid problem - real tragedy, that kid's story), so the ceremony was set for the day before. Pretty Wednesday, they called it.

There was to be an unveiling of a few new cosmetic products, some business having to do with plastic surgery; one truly beautiful man was going to go up and read from his recently published book, I Really Did, I Woke Up Like This.

Frankly, the itinerary sounded pretty boring. Then I heard my name called for the last to-do on the list: the ritual sacrificing of a Great Average.

I was confused by a lot of things at first - why my name was called, what a ritual sacrifice was (you'll do your best to pretend you don't know something you don't want to know), was it going to mess up my hair, so the question of what a Great Average was didn't cross my mind until a little later.

Great Average, Hashoon told me, was short for Average-Looking Person with a Great Personality, which was and always had been the biggest threat to pretty people. Not having a clever way to deal with Great Averages like they did Fat Normals or Boring Regulars, the pretty people would kidnap GAs or keep track of them until they could make a moment of it and sacrifice them to their beautiful god (meaning they murdered the poor bastards).

And that year, since I was the newest member, they wanted me to have the honor of carrying out the sacrifice.

This is how I would be inducted, Hashoon told me. There were perks that came with the membership, access to certain facilities restricted to pretty people society, neighborhoods you were to finally be allowed in (like those gated ones with the ponds in them), contact information for the best doctors both medicinal and cosmetic, etc.

But most of all, it was an opportunity to destroy that last remnant of your mind that was still holding on, that last part still whispering doubts in your ear, to become, in a sense, purely physical, purely carnal, primitive once again, like you were when you were born and like we all must've been generations and generations before. No more self-consciousness because that was for people who still had their minds intact; introspection and self-analysis was for the damned who couldn't afford to lose it. But I could.

All I had to do was kill this one Great Average.

Knowing you're about to kill someone makes listening to shit about new cosmetic products and plastic surgery pretty unbearable. Hashoon noticed my restlessness, and asked if I'd like to make love.

So on the rooftop of that high-rise in downtown Dallas, I made love to one of the leaders of the pretty people - something that seemed at the time like a sealing of fate.

After the relatively boring sex, it was time for the ritual sacrifice. I was given a long, jewel-encrusted dagger, and then led down a walkway bordered by genetically modified roses to a marble table upon which a plain-looking girl lay with her hands and ankles bound by silken rope.

The girl was so utterly unremarkable I thought they might've made a mistake in picking her. Then she spoke.

"Wanna hear a construction joke?" she asked, nonchalant, as if she wasn't about to die.

"Um. Sure," I said.

"I'm still working on it."

It took a second, but when the joke hit me, it hit hard. I giggled at first, then as the joke replayed itself in my head, keeled over, clutching my stomach in an attempt to hold in the laughter. Tears streamed down my face. I began to wonder if the girl was a witch, because then I thought, the joke wasn't even that funny, but that's sort of what makes it funny, isn't it; here I am laughing so hard at a joke that wasn't really that funny; I'm the one who's funny now, and boy does that crack me up, this accidental but quite natural redirection of what's funny; I can't believe I thought for a second that she was a witch; what a goofball I am!

Then I paused. I looked down at the Great Average - the person - on the marble table with her hands and ankles bound by fetish rope. I looked down at the jewel-encrusted dagger in my hands. And I looked at it all with horror.

Then I saw my abdominal muscles, and, admittedly, some of the horror went away.

The Great Average stared back at me curiously - imagine you're driving down a road and have to slam on the brakes because a deer has crossed over onto the street. It glances at you, unfazed by the numerous times you've honked your horn at it. Then it frowns and cocks its head to the side: "Everything okay?" it asks. "You need to talk?"

That's how the Great Average was staring at me: with complete sincerity.

"You have beautiful eyes," she said. "There's flecks of gold in them."

I'd always, since as early as I could remember, had eyes with flecks of gold in them. And never once did I have to kill another person to make that true.

I slashed at the silken fetish rope with the dagger, freeing the Great Average. The pretty people watched in disgust, not interfering for fear of getting their designer-brand outfits dirty, which was understandable.

That was the last time I ever saw the pretty people.

Though I haven't gone completely back to my old lifestyle, I'm not so obsessed with looking hot as hell twenty-four-seven, which has been good for the noggin. I realize now, of course, in hindsight, knowing what we know, that I was lucky to get out when I did. Before everything went down.

All people do some strange things. It's true. I still do some strange things. I'll eat store-brand chili straight out of the can sometimes, won't even bother to heat it up.

But I won't kill nobody because they're a threat to my social status. People may do some strange things, but pretty people do the strangest things. And I've struggled with this a lot, but the best thing to do might just be to force that piece of pie down their throat. Anyone is welcome to steal the construction joke, too; I sure have and on multiple occasions. It's a winner. Sometimes those sorts of things bring people's minds back. And while that ain't always pretty, it sure as hell is human.


  1. Serious points - lightly made - thanks for an entertaining story,

  2. nice satire on the `modern world` and its foibles and very funny.

    Mike McC

  3. Interesting take on the cautionary tale - I liked the opening observation regarding "attractive people".

  4. Loved surface topic of attractive people and the rapid-d-d- pace of the story.