They Can’t Get Out – an ISG Writing Exercise

On 31 January 2018, these three words were chosen:

  • Shirk
  • Iron
  •  Friend

And these blurbs were written within five minutes….Enjoy!



“You cannot just shirk your duties like that,” Kalvin said. “Do you know what could have happened?”

“Yes, I am aware,” Howard said, rolling his eyes. “But, like, I just got myself some coffee, it’s not a big deal.”

Kalvin wrinkled his nose a little bit and frowned. “Is that…coffee, huh?”

“Irish coffee,” he amended and waved out his hands. “It’s fine. Nothing happened.”

Howard, as if the restraints were not still in place, looked down at the pit. The twin beings, both small and tentacled, floated in the sealed area they’d been in for the last one hundred years.

“Look,” Kalvin said, “just because we are friends, I am not going to report this. But you need to be more careful. We have records of these guys taking out entire solar systems. The screams of that star exploding are still coming.”

“But they can’t get out, can they?” Howard said.


“Exactly. See? They just float there in the void forever. And there is nothing to do when I watch them—and I do watch them at least. Not something online. At least let me have some booze while I do so.”

Kalvin rolled his eyes. “No. Do it again, and I will report you.”

“Fine,” Howard said and waved out his hand in defeat. “I won’t.”

Neither noticed the iron ring on his hand, loose, sailing into the pit.

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“What kind of friend does that?” I asked Hugh. He shrugged before scooping up another pile of dirt with the shovel and tossing it into the hole.

I looked at the body he was burying and shook my head.

“I would never, ever, ever do that. What a moron.”

“It was upsetting,” he commented as another pile of dirt went flying.

“Did you try to iron out everything with your girl?” I asked. As more dirt was tossed into the pile, I suddenly realized that meeting Hugh’s wife would likely not be a smart move on my part.

“I did, of course. No one else ever really means anything to her, she just likes a different flavor every now and again.”

I didn’t comment on the fact that feasting off other people really shouldn’t be considered cheating. I mean, I’ll drink from men, women, kids, even animals in a pinch. I don’t think of it as anything even close to shirking my spouse. Hugh was suddenly very scary, and I was thinking I should probably move. Like really far away.

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Jaden took a step back, and the figure smiled. “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Redial,” the man said and bowed low. “And who do I have the pleasure of addressing?” Jaden stared at him, pressing his lips together. “Oh, come now, how are we to be friends if I don’t know your name?” Redial said, his smile growing. “If you’re worried about the wizard, I can promise I haven’t done anything to him.” Jaden frowned. If that was true, then where was Shevin? Redial rolled his eyes. “Are you so enamored with him that you truly cannot believe he would shirk his duty? You don’t know him very well.” “I know enough,” Jaden said, stepping back again. “I wouldn’t go anywhere if I were you,” Redial continued the redness in his eyes sparkling in a hypnotizing way. “You have no idea what’s out there.” “What do you want with me?” Jaden asked. “I’m not going to hurt you,” Redial said. “If it makes you feel better, I want what Shevin wanted. To take you and,” he smiled slyly, “what you carry, to safety beyond the borders of the Woodland and the reach of the Iron King.” “And if I don’t want to go with you?” Jaden asked, drawing the knife a little further from its scabbard. “You’ll find you won’t have much of a choice,” Redial replied.

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Pelonius walked into the arena, clutching his iron close. He hadn’t been able to refuse his friend’s request, after all, once, on a battlefield long forgotten by all but those who lived, Argus the Greek had saved his life. One could not shirk a blood debt.

The damned fool had stolen a cart, and now here he was right next to the thief. Shoulder to shoulder with him, leather clasps from his armor were even digging into Pelonius’ arm.

The announcement boomed out from the horns across the countryside, as their host pulled the last stragglers in from the plaza outside. Every penny he could make before releasing the “dragon” they’d all been hearing about being brought in from the far east, chained on the backs of forty camels. It was just Argus’ luck he’d been the prisoner chosen to fight it.

The gate began rising across the arena, and the two men shuffled for better position, already sweating into their eyes, ready for the worst.

The crowd roared in laughter as the “dragon” appeared. A beast not eight feet in length, fat and rolly looking was being poked by a trainer, trying to force it out of his cage. The arena manager was climbing down off his dias to help.

Argus laughed, “Ten soldi says we’ll be roasting that thing on a spit in two hours.”

I laughed, “Make it one, my friend, and I’ll gladly pay to lose. Watch out, I hear their spit is poisonous, and that’s from a better source than this idiot’s magical creatures dealer.”


Ralph tried to see the knife blade held against his throat, but only succeeded in pulling an odd face. “I really think we need to discuss the definition of the word ‘friends,’ Marley,” he commented, the feel of the iron cold against his skin.

“Are we friends?” Marley asked, the blade pressing just a fraction closer.

“I don’t know what you mean, man,” Ralph tried, wondering just how much Marley knew. “Of course we are.”

“Let’s talk about friendship for a moment,” Marley suggested, and Ralph started to nod but stopped himself from doing Marley’s work for him just in time.

“Sure thing, mate.”

“Friends don’t shirk their duty and pretend to be watching the walls so others can sleep in peace. Friends don’t leave their comrades open to enemy attack at any moment.”

Oh crap, Ralph thought. He knows about that.

The blade crept a smidgeon closer, if that was possible, scraping off the top layer of Ralph’s skin. “And friends certainly don’t abandon their posts to engage in illicit activities with the commander’s wife,” Marley growled.

Ralph thought once more of Rebecca, of her fair hair and her wide eyes, of her smooth skin and her sweet voice, then stared at his commander and waited for the final blow.

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“What are you doing?” Shayla asked Maxin in a frustrated tone. “There’s no way you’re going to be able break these shackles, they’re like iron.”

Maxin sighed, “They are iron,” I corrected. Shayla gave me an annoyed look and resigned herself to being stuck in the damp dungeon. Only one torch remained burning, but it wouldn’t last much longer. Maxin thought back to how they had gotten into this predicament. Apparently, shirking even the tiniest of responsibilities could have some serious repercussions. He had hoped that his friends would soon realize that he and Shayla were missing.

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Filed under Creative Writing, Writers Group, Writing, Writing Exercise

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