Social Darwinism

4 Mar

100 words of apophenia for Friday Fictioneers based on the photo prompt from Erin Leary. Thanks to all who read Dream of the Dragonfly and commented during the preceding week. If I didn’t get to your story please accept my heartfelt apology. Out of 117 stories and I read about 40%. Madison’s baby is turning into a demanding teenager under the patient care of Rochelle. Hide the car keys. I can’t promise I’ll be doing any better, reading-wise, this week, but one thing I will tell you is that if you write a good story, word will get out. Witness the writing of Dr. Tracey of She’s new but good. Welcome to the party, pal.


(Copyright Erin Leary)

“What do you see?” asked Emily’s court appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Rochelle Fields.


“You know what most people see when they look at that picture?”



“Did you kill him, Emily?”


“Do you know why?”

“It was a mercy killing. We’d been married a month when he said he wanted me to share him with another woman.”

“My report will say temporary insanity, Emily. Doing my bit to save the world, one retroactive abortion at a time.”

“Thank you.”


“What stars, Emily?”

“The constellation Cepheus.”




75 Responses to “Social Darwinism”

  1. rochellewisoff March 4, 2015 at 9:38 am #

    Dear Doug,

    I often tell people that I got my psych degree from the couch.

    I’m with my alter ego on this one…justifiable homicide. Perfect title. Only you would look at mushrooms and see stars. Guy’s got skills. Love the tags.



    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2015 at 9:43 am #

      Dear Rochelle,

      I’m always looking up, you see. Old habit from the early days of my job. Thanks for reading and commenting.



      P.S. B (Hahahahahahaha) IKM

  2. Claire Fuller March 4, 2015 at 11:58 am #

    Doug, you obviously identify very strongly with Emily, since you saw stars. Is there anything you want to tell us?
    A great story. It’s one of a kind, as are you.

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2015 at 12:39 pm #

      Dear Claire,

      Nothing beyond what I’m saying in my story, but thanks for asking. I saw a constellation right away. Thought it was Leo, but then homed in on Cepheus. Something to do with where I work. As for Emily, well, isn’t there a part of the author in all of their characters?

      Thank you for your kind comments and for taking the time to share your thoughts.



  3. lingeringvisions by Dawn March 4, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

    Very cool. I wish I saw things like that, even if only some times.

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2015 at 12:41 pm #

      Dear Dawn,

      You can see anything you can imagine and all of the time. Thanks for dropping by.



  4. Suzanne Joshi March 4, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

    I agree that it was temporary insanity. If someone I was married to for a month said that to me, I’d probably go into shock. I didn’t understand the constellation until I checked the location of the mushrooms. The line connecting the stars reminds me of a tent, but that would have meant nothing to the ancients most likely. Good story, Doug, as always. I’m not participating for a while as my husband needs tests, etc. I hope to get back to the stories in the near future. I am trying to read the blogs I subscribe to.

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

      Dear Suzanne,

      Thank you for taking the time to read my post and for commenting so kindly. I placed the constellation photo at the bottom so that everyone could see what I did the minute I saw the prompt. I hope your husband’s tests are aced, so to speak and that you rejoin us soon. Writing is a balm for the spirit. I wish you and yours well.



  5. wildbilbo March 4, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    I liked your constellation take on this, and Cepheus was a nice choice – although it meant I went back to the picture and spent 5 minutes looking for patterns… 🙂

    I enjoyed the dialogue story – the too and fro works well, but I dunno… that seemed pretty harsh. I mean the guy was a clearly a douche, but it just seemed like a bit of an overreaction!

    Maybe I’m just a softy 🙂

    • dmmacilroy March 4, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

      Dear KT,

      You can darn near superimpose the bottom photo over the top one to see that the mushrooms were perfectly aligned in the shape of Cepheus. It was too cool to not add and it perfectly illustrated what I saw right away. As for harsh, well, yes, I suppose that’s one way to put it. This story is kind of tongue in cheek commentary on people’s perceptions and I just wanted to write on a few levels about that subject.

      Softy and Aussie don’t usually go together, do they? Ah, well, it takes all kinds. Thanks for dropping by to read and comment. I appreciate it. Headed your way now.



  6. sustainabilitea March 4, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

    Dear Dan, greatly enjoyed going with you where no man it likely to go this week–star trekking! You see things we don’t and it’s always fun sharing them.

    As always,

    Julie 🙂
    (For those of you befuddled by the names, you’ll have to read the comment section of my story, where I apparently saw stars while responding to Doug’s comment.)

  7. Michael B. Fishman March 4, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

    Retroactive abortion… I wonder what the world would be like if there was a reset button like that around? Of course then who would be the ones who would get to push it? A scary thought and a scary (and sad) story this week.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 2:39 am #

      Dear Michael,

      It would be nice, wouldn’t it? It’s a good thing such an option doesn’t exist.

      Thanks for reading and offering your thoughts.



  8. patrickprinsloo March 4, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

    How do you know about Cepheus?
    Great dialogue which had me rooting for Emily all the way (I’d make a lousy juror!). That psychiatrist – do I know her from somewhere?

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 2:42 am #

      Dear Patrick,

      Part of my job used to be sitting outside in a chair in the dark and staring at the constellations. Cepheus and I are old friends as a result. I gave a nod to Rochelle because I’d thought she’d get a kick out of being a psychiatrist. Thanks for rooting for Emily.



  9. aliciajamtaas March 4, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

    Doug, after watching your video explaining your “star gazing ” chair I wasn’t at all surprised by your take on the prompt. A delightful back-and-forth conversation. Cheers.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 2:47 am #

      Dear Alicia,

      Trolling YouTube, eh? That was a great chair and ideally suited for the task of communing with the stars. Thank you very much for reading and commenting on Social Darwinism.



  10. Sandra March 4, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

    Why, I wonder, am I not surprised to see your take on the prompt, you stargazer you. I like Emily. I like the psychiatrist. And I like the husband just as he is… no longer. Good job, Doug.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 2:53 am #

      Dear Sandra,

      I love how you phrased your joy about the demise of Emily’s husband. Yu are so good at what you do. Thank you for dropping by to read and comment.



  11. David Stewart March 4, 2015 at 5:24 pm #

    I’m impressed, Doug, that you could look at this picture and see Cepheus. This is great dialogue: so vivid and realistic.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 2:55 am #

      Dear David,

      Dialogue is all, isn’t it? Thank you for letting me know that I came close to the mark with mine in Social Darwinism. Cepheus and I are old friends.



  12. erinleary March 4, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    Like Dave, I am also impressed that you could look at that picture and see the stars. I appreciated Rochelle’s sensitivities and salvation. Mushrooms are not to be messed with.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 2:57 am #

      Dear Erin,

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Mushrooms…what a prompt, eh?



  13. storydivamg March 4, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

    Dear Doug,
    First, I must admit that I misread your title initially and expected to see a story about Social Dwarvinism. Ha! Well, I missed getting to cavort in diamond-filled caves with a bunch of short dudes, but I enjoyed your tale immensely.

    All my best,
    Marie Gail

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:00 am #

      Dear Marie,

      I think that one day I will try to write the story you were looking for. Sounds challenging. Thanks for reading, enjoying and commenting.



  14. Snow's Fissures and Fractures March 4, 2015 at 7:13 pm #

    I saw it, too. Just didn’t know what I was seeing. Under the influence of mushrooms…the voices are soft spoken, with a powerful undercurrent. To one a lunatic, to another just a hero…it’s all in the eyes.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:02 am #

      Dear Lore,

      I can hear the knowledge behind the comments of all those who have partaken of a certain kind of mushrooms. Thanks for reading and commenting on Social Darwinism. I appreciate it.



  15. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) March 4, 2015 at 7:56 pm #

    Ah.. this constellation.. I remember from time to time that work has given me flashbacks when out driving.. but seeing constellations is probably in mushrooms is probably better than seeing constellation after eating mushrooms… I would say that the insane one in this case probably got killed.. 🙂

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:04 am #

      Dear Bjorn,

      I think that you are right. Thank you for reading and commenting.



  16. elmowrites March 4, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

    I’m afraid I saw mushrooms, Doug, and shit – both of which I’m sure will be all too common in the stories this week. Feel free to skip mine; you won’t be missing much, but it demanded to be posted. Thank you for raising us out of the mire and making me look again.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:08 am #

      Dear Jennifer,

      You probably saw more than what you described, but sometimes an image is hard to clean off of your shoe and you have to run with it, right? I saw stars right off the bat because the constellation matches the prompt almost perfectly. (I will never skip your offerings and am happy to have made you look at least one more time.)



  17. singleworkingmomswm March 4, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

    Whatever you do for a living that allows you to view the stars enough to recognize a constellation via mushrooms, well, it must be brilliant! And, the fact that nature’s oddities lined up perfectly, well, it was meant to be for this one. “Retroactive abortion”…it’s word choices like these that keep me reading as often as possible-so creatively unique. The best part is being in the office with them during this interview-back and forth-I was right there, and gosh, I really love the attorney (and honestly, the wife…she kills me)! Pun intended. 😉 XOXO-Kasey

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:12 am #

      Dear Kasey,

      You are such a supportive and encouraging friend and I will never be able to tell you how much your reading of my stories means to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Love your pun, and yes, I kind of love the characters in this story, too.

      Many mahalos.



  18. AnElephantCant March 5, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    Cleverly done and well written, Doug.
    It has pretty much all been said!

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:13 am #

      Dear AEC,

      Thank you, sir. I appreciate you reading.



  19. draliman March 5, 2015 at 2:08 pm #

    Wow, you not only saw stars in the mushrooms but identified a constellation!
    Rochelle seems to be quite a pragmatic psychiatrist.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:14 am #

      Dear Draliman,

      The stars are there to be seen and The psychiatrist is one of my favorite persons. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  20. Weltchysnotebook March 5, 2015 at 2:21 pm #

    Two stories in, two references to either a forced or failed marriage. I believe a pattern is in motion. Nicely written Doug, I feel this one comes across as light hearted for a story with a dark core, mainly because of your use of Rochelle at the start and the banter. If this was your aim, then well played!!!

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:18 am #

      Dear Weltchy,

      Thanks for the input. I was trying to layer this piece on several levels and am glad to know it worked.



  21. Jan Brown March 5, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

    Good story! Retroactive abortion…Who would I nominate for that? Perhaps one or two men I have known…perhaps more.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:20 am #

      Dear Jan,

      Just men? Darn…. I’ll have to keep looking over my shoulder now.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  22. hafong March 5, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

    I say the husband had that coming! I like the psychiatrist but I was a little dense about the constellations but I am learning. 🙂


    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:22 am #

      Dear Lily,

      The stars are patient. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  23. Joe Owens March 5, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

    Doug – When i was in Belize in December of 2012 I was away from any city lights and the number of stars visible was mind boggling. I wish i could have captured it on film (as it were). I see the resemblance to Cephus and liked your story.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:23 am #

      Dear Joe,

      The stars are amazing for those who get to see them in solitude and for long enough to let their majesty sink in. I’m lucky to work and live where I do.



  24. rgayer55 March 5, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

    Gee, Doug, I think a simple “No” from Emily would have been sufficient. At least you saw a constellation, I saw dog turds. 🙂

    • Perry Block (@PerryBlock) March 9, 2015 at 4:23 am #

      Yes, but I know you meant the constellation “dog turds,” which I see every night as well.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:26 am #

      Dear Russell,

      Emily is smarter than any of us think. Thanks for dropping by.



  25. pattisj March 6, 2015 at 4:46 am #

    You are full of surprises. I’m impressed you saw Cepheus in the mushroom pattern. Fun characters and dialog.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:28 am #

      Dear Pattisj,

      Thanks for your kind comments. i appreciate you taking the time to read and share your thoughts.



  26. March 6, 2015 at 5:35 am #

    Unlike Andromeda, Emily took matters into her own hands. Thank you for the shout out. I am humbled by your praise.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:29 am #

      Dear Tracey,

      You are very welcome.



  27. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist March 6, 2015 at 7:22 am #

    Enjoyed the dialogue and the story. I gather you are a star gazer so am not at all surprised by your take and I enjoyed the way you so deftly turned the mushrooms into stars.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:32 am #

      Dear Irene,

      I’m lucky to be living and working where I can see the stars in unparalleled majesty. I will never take them for granted and see them even when I’m not looking at them. Thanks for your kind comments this week.



      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist March 12, 2015 at 11:30 am #

        We used to live in the Pacific on a small island without electricity. I have never seen stars like it and I doubt I will again although we have lived in regional areas away from city lights. You are lucky to have that experience all the time.

  28. Amy Reese March 6, 2015 at 7:22 pm #

    Stars, this is new, but I’m not surprised you would see stars, Doug. A complex story wrapped around these stars. Great dialogue and I enjoyed your tags, too.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:34 am #

      Dear Amy,

      Thank you for seeing the tags. Are you a student of the hidden messages often contained therein? I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.



  29. gahlearner March 6, 2015 at 8:15 pm #

    I cannot unsee Cepheus now, brilliant! In fiction, things like retroactive abortion are allowed and give a chuckle. Am I the only one who sees the sixth mushroom?

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:37 am #

      Dear Gahlearner,

      The sixth mushroom is the one that sealed the deal for me regarding Cepheus and the remarkable similarity between it and the prompt. Thanks for enjoying the story and for taking the time to say so.



  30. Margaret March 7, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    A very original response. Stars! Amazing. I hope Emily finds happiness somewhere.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:38 am #

      Dear Margaret,

      I think Emily will always find happiness. Thanks for reading and commenting.



  31. Inside the Mind of Isadora March 8, 2015 at 5:59 am #

    I am astonished at the many interpretations of the photo prompt. I am learning a great deal about the way to approach the craft of writing. This is so well written. You are quite the creative writer. Thank you for this brilliant write. : )

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:42 am #

      Dear Isadora,

      That is one of the compelling and often overlooked aspects of participating in Friday Fictioneers. Thank you for your kind praise and for taking the time to read my story and share your thoughts. I look forward to reading more of your work. it sounds as though you and your readers will be benefiting from your attention to detail.



  32. i b arora March 8, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

    quite interesting

  33. Perry Block (@PerryBlock) March 9, 2015 at 4:20 am #

    Shows the difference between people’s minds. You see a constellation deep in space named after a Greek king, and I see a pussy cat. You use words like apophenia, which I’ve never heard of, and I use words like pussy cat. And then the pussy cat for me transformed into daisies. I’ll learn if I keep reading you; thanks, Doug!

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:46 am #

      Dear Perry,

      You are a master of seeing felines in the mushrooms. Apophenia was too good to ignore, and, if I may be so bold, there is a great deal of it in your work. Keep at it.



    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:48 am #

      Dear Perry,

      Apophenia applies very much to what you write almost every week. You are the master.



  34. subroto March 9, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    Once you have the magic mushrooms you can see whatever you want 🙂
    Great take on the prompt.

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:49 am #

      Dear Subroto,

      Thank you, sir.



  35. talesfromthemotherland March 10, 2015 at 1:00 am #

    I love the multi-layers of this story, Doug. Clever woman, saying stars, but then the fact that that stars do in fact look like the constellation… all of it makes for a very clever writer, to develop such a clever woman and such a sharp story. I like the Dr.s attitude, and imagine it has played out like that at some point in real life. Well done!

    • dmmacilroy March 10, 2015 at 3:55 am #

      Dear Dawn,

      You are very kind and I appreciate it. Emily is a creature near and dear to my heart as are the stars and, of course, the psychiatrist. These stories are the ultimate Rorschach blot, aren’t they? Thanks for reading and commenting.



      • talesfromthemotherland March 10, 2015 at 4:19 am #

        Especially photos like this one. They really are Rorschachs! Some weeks, my imagination goes in all kinds of directions.
        Aloha, D

  36. jwdwrites March 11, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    Pardon my tardiness Doug, here I am on the day the next FF comes out and I am only just getting around the community! What an amazing mind you have that you can see the constellations in a bunch of mushrooms! I am so glad you added the image afterwards or I would have been scratching my head over this one. Very clever, makes me feel positively shallow. 🙂

  37. dmmacilroy March 11, 2015 at 7:38 pm #

    Dear JWD,

    Never fear re tardiness. I wrote the book on it and thus forgive all. As I said in my answers to some of the comments, the seeing of the constellation came right away simply because of my work. The illustration of it fit perfectly so all worked out in the end. Thanks for reading and commenting. I look forward to reading your story this week.



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