“Let Me Tell You About Hazel” holds a meta-narrative, a story inside a story — we meet J. Askew and we also meet Hazel, their fictional character. By telling us about Hazel, Askew shares how writing Hazel’s story has helped them live in their own story. The post-apocalyptic world of Askew’s imagining contains graphic violence that speaks to the trauma many survivors experience, and Hazel’s strength in living through it serves as proof that healing is possible both for those who can tell these stories and all those who read and experience them.


Let Me Tell You About Hazel

by J. Askew

I made up a girl. She’s 20, a lot younger than me. I gave her a kick-ass name, Hazel Fox, and I gave her a sexual abuse story.

            She was 11 when it happened. She was abandoned by her parents in a post-apocalyptic city and left to fend for herself. The world was crumbling around her, but her mind was still pure and clean. It didn’t take long before a bad person found her, tore her clothes from her tiny body, and raped her.

            She screamed the whole time. You see, it hurts when your body isn’t ready for that kind of invasion. She cried too and called for her mother and father. Once, she tried shouting their full names, but she couldn’t remember them. They were “Mommy” and “Daddy” to her. She ended up shouting for “Foxes”, but no one came.

            Her body decided to give up halfway through the assault, and somehow, her mind gave up too. When the man finished, his body went limp on top of her and she felt for a moment that she had a teaspoon of strength left. She took that teaspoon and hit the man with a tin box that was by her side. It was filled with band-aids. She didn’t stop hitting him for what he had taken away from her, not for a long time.

            When she was left with his dead body, his skull neatly caved in by the repetitive strikes of a desperate child, she did not weep. Instead, she dragged his carcass to the rotten window of her isolated home and used the last morsel of strength she had left to push him from the building. He landed nine floors down with a squelch.

            She checked on his body for years, until it rotted away like the rest of Planet Earth. It made her feel safe to know that he was still dead and would never do that to her again. He would never make her skin dirty, or her insides dirty, not whilst he lay in the street dead.

            It took her a decade to tell someone else, a little longer than it took me. Hazel is special, you see. Hazel is who I tell myself to be when I wonder why. Hazel’s future is riddled with tarnished paths and an inability to understand why she doesn’t feel clean anymore. But she’ll turn her pain into that melting kind of rage that makes a woman invincible. She’ll grit her teeth when she sees someone who looks like her rapist, but she’ll never let it happen again, not to her, not to anyone she loves. She’ll wear her strength on her sleeve, and no one will question that she’s formidable. She will go on and accomplish the most incredible things. Not because of what happened to her, but because she survived it. We are all Hazel Fox.



J. Askew enjoys exploring mental health issues, sexual identity, and disability through sci-fi and horror. She is a member of the Horror Writers Association and aims to be a leading female author in her genres. Her debut novel, Green Again, which explores mental health and neurodiverse people at the end of the world, is currently in editing and will be released in 2020. In the meantime she is enjoying writing short stories that show the strength of those with alternate needs in a sci-fi or horror setting. She is a member of the LGBTQ community and identifies as bisexual. J. Askew tweets at @J_Askew_Author.