Sometimes the best short stories are the ones which hint at a much larger picture, almost as if they're a window onto one person's experience of a grand saga. That's what Sigrid Ellis' "No Return Address" is like.
"No Return Address," posted at StrangeHorizons.com, is one of those fantasy stories that lets you sketch in a lot of details for yourself, but the picture winds up being super vivid nonetheless. The whole story is told through short postcards and letters that a woman is writing to her daughter, who's run away from home. Except that the daughter didn't exactly just run away from home — she went to Europe to become involved in a collossal conflict, and as the mom learns more about her daughter Amanda, she also starts to learn more about herself. I don't to give too much away, but it winds up being incredibly moving, and yet also very funny in parts.
Here's how it starts:
Amanda Haines, you are the most hurtful, selfish, ungrateful little bitch. I can't believe I raised you. Two months you've been missing, and now I get this. Just this. This postcard, with no return address, no note, just a postmark from Madrid, Spain, and your initials. Lowercase initials, such a pretentious thing to do. If you had put an address on this postcard, I would tell you what I think of that, and what I think of you. I would send you this letter and tell you never to come back here. This isn't your home anymore. I can't even tell you this! I can't reach you at all! You-you are not my daughter anymore. Just-go to hell.
I got another postcard, Amanda. You don't have a passport, honey. How did you get to Europe? When you told me you had new friends that mattered to you, I thought you'd met a guy. Did you meet a guy? I didn't know where Bacezza, Italy, is, I looked it up online. But your first postcard was from Madrid. Do you need money? Where can I send it? I hear the trains are cheap. Are they clean?
Are you safe?
Read the rest over at the link. [Strange Horizons]
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