Inspiring creativity and encouraging personal and social change through the arts

The Prison Arts Foundation is as important as it is unique. Thanks to our pioneering work with people with convictions lives are being transformed and patterns of behaviour changed for good.

Our team of experienced professional artists working across the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland are offering people with convictions a life-line, helping to improve their creative and communications skills, which is key to personal and social development, building self-confidence and unlocking people’s potential.

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Writing (Short Story)


Jim woke up at 3 o’clock on the dot. He had been doing this every night for a month, he would wake up out of a deep sleep, jumping out of his bed, screaming and shouting, thinking he was being attacked. He had gone to his doctor telling him of the night terrors he was having, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and he had been prescribed Zoplicone to help him with his sleep and Diazepam to help with his anxiety but if anything they made his dreams even worse.

Jim turned the night lamp on so he could see what he was doing. He was shaking nervously and buckets of sweat were pouring out of him. Jim looked at the bed and then gazed down to his waist. It was only then that he noticed, he had soiled himself again. He let out a long sigh, this was the third time this week he had wet the bed. He had told his doctor about this as well, but he told him that this was only natural for people who were having nightmares. Jim pulled off his shorts and started to change his bed clothes. He had to buy extra bedding last week as this occurrence had been happening more and more often, as his dreams had gotten steadily worse.

Jim tried to remember his dream but it was quickly fading away. They had taken him down an alleyway and had started to beat him savagely. They pulled him up to his knees and pulled a gun out in front of him. They hit him over the head with the gun and told him he was going to be kneecapped. He started crying and began to beg them for flesh wounds, but the men had only laughed at him and told him he was lucky he wasn’t getting one in the head. They then held Jim down, face to the floor and put the barrel of the pistol to the backside of his left knee. BANG. He started to scream as the pain from the gun shot spread straight down his leg. It was agony. BANG. He didn’t even feel the second shot. He couldn’t believe that he even felt pain in his dreams it was like it was actually happening to him. Jim had never even been shot before, so he was wondering why he had that particular dream, this night. The levels of violence had steadily been rising in the past week from being beaten with sticks, to being stabbed, and even in one of the dreams he had been set on fire.

A car drove by outside. He raced to the window and pulled back one of the blinds just an inch and he saw a grey Ford parked across the street, beside the garden of the house directly opposite him. He had never seen this car before. What was it doing here at this hour of night? He ran towards his front door, checked the lock to make sure that it was locked and secure. When satisfied that it was he turned his attention back to the window to see what that car was up to. They had to be here for him he figured. They were going to beat and torment him again. It could be something to do with the last people that had broken into his house. He remembered that night as if it was yesterday. He was lying in bed, sound asleep, when he had heard someone moving around in the living room very quietly. He was a light sleeper, so it didn’t take much to wake him. He got out of bed to investigate what was going on. He had figured that it must have been the man in the flat facing him because when he and his wife were fighting, he usually went to sleep on the sofa in Jim’s flat. He was the only other person who had a key to the flat, so it had to be him.

If only he had known the danger he was in. Jim opened the bedroom door to find two bare faced men, with woolly hats and gloves on, one rummaging through his cabinet, the other in the middle of the room putting Jim’s laptop into a grip bag. They both froze at the sight of him. At least 5 seconds passed with the three men staring at each other before Jim made the first move, running to his bedroom for safety. They were close to follow suit. He had a lock on his bedroom door that he turned before going for his phone to call the police. But the lock was no good, as the door had been opened in one single swift kick.

Jim turned back but had gotten a good look at one of the burglars before he was struck over the head with a crowbar. He had woken up two days later tied and gagged. They used a HDMI wire as a make-shift rope for his hands, feet and head then used toilet roll and Duct tape to gag him. It was still dark when he woke up and he hadn’t realized that the men had left two days ago, so he was still frozen in fear, too afraid to move. Jim tried to loosen the make-shift handcuffs from his wrists but they were tied too tight and he had little success. It was about an hour before he realised the robbers had gone. He tried to listen for a sign of movement but found none.

Jim started crawling towards the living room by this point but found it extremely hard, as his hands were tied behind his back. He gave up and lay there hoping that someone would come to his rescue soon. Another day would pass before his neighbour discovered him in that condition. Tied and gagged, with a deep gash across his forehead, lying there in a pool of his own urine. He could only imagine what he must have looked like. Jim’s neighbour John phoned an ambulance as soon as he had seen him in that state. After he made the call for an ambulance and police he sparked up a cigarette, before he realised that he needed to untie Jim.

‘Are you okay?’ John asked then handed him a cigarette for him to smoke.

Jim was too dazed and confused to answer. It was twenty minutes before the ambulance arrived and he was rushed to hospital. When he got there he was told he had a concussion and had to get an MRI scan to see if there was anything wrong with his brain. He had a slight bleeding in the brain but he was told it wouldn’t be life threatening but may have side-effects such as hallucinations and severe migraines.

That all happened two years ago, but Jim never forgot that day. He suffered many migraines but wasn’t sure if he had hallucinations, though he was always thinking people were out to get him. He had been extremely paranoid after the incident, even more so now that he had testified in court, put the man who had hit him with the crowbar away for nine years for aggravated burglary and grievous bodily harm with intent, only 2 months past. That’s when the nightmares started. The Forensics team had swabbed his house when he was in the hospital and found a strand of hair and saliva on one of Jim’s bottles of beer. It took nine months for them to make a match on the DNA that linked it to a man known to the police called Harry Swipes; a convicted burglar and armed robber.

The police asked Jim to come to a line up and as soon as he saw Harry, he was able to point him out as the man who hit him with the crowbar. Ever since the man had been sentenced Jim’s paranoia and anxiety had gone through the roof, because they were not able to find or convict the other man who had robbed his house. They had only gotten a laptop and an iPad, 300 pounds in cash and jewellery, worth about 700 pounds. Nine years is a long time for taking goods only worth a thousand five hundred, and Jim was sure repercussions were coming soon.

Jim stayed at the window looking out at the car for half an hour. Why were they there? What were they up to? Finally a girl walked out of the house, climbed into the car and it sped away. He hoped he was just being paranoid but he still had his doubts. He walked over to his medicine cupboard opened the drawer and pulled out his medication. He pulled out two boxes of tablets, took a strip out of each box and popped 3 Diazepam 10mgs out of one strip and 2 Zopiclone 7.5mgs out of the other. He put the kettle on and put a tea bag into a cup with 2 spoons of sugar as well. He added a drop of semi-skimmed milk in as the kettle came to a boil. He poured the water in, popped the pills into his mouth and took a long deep swig. He went to the bathroom to clean himself up. He put on a new pair of shorts and jumped back into his bed with the fresh sheets on. He waited for the pills to take their effect and slowly drifted back into the deep slumber he called hell on earth.

HMP Magilligan

1st Prize Short Story Getting Started, Listowel Writing in Prison Awards, 2020

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