Puffin’s review published on Letterboxd:
So there's this scary trauma demon running around. Most people try to avoid this evil menace, but you are a little more adventurous than the average death-fearer. Well, you are in luck. I now have expert knowledge in how to meet with and eventually become this demon pretty reliably. I am not responsible for any of the risks involved in becoming a smiley person on your own time through my helpful advice.
First thing's first: What are the qualifications for meeting the trauma demon? (or "smiley", for simplicity's sake.)
1) You have to witness, and be traumatized by, a person's death when you are relatively young. 10 years old seems to be the sweet spot, though there may be some variance. Other possible requirements are that the person who dies is someone you already know (preferably a family member), you feel a level of guilt surrounding their death (whether it's your fault or not), and the person died by suicide (specified in some instances, left ambiguous in others.)
2) Wait around for a while.
3) Be the sole witness to a different person's violent suicide. Hope and pray that the person is a smiley and not just some guy.
Q: If a smiley dies and there is more than one witness, which one will the smiley inhabit?
A: shut up
Q: Are the smileys inherently gravitating toward people with past trauma, or is it just a coincidence that every smiley encounter involves a very specific set of past circumstances involving witnessing a death?
a: shut up shut up
If the person who just killed themselves is a smiley, congratulations. This will have been your first encounter with the smiley. It will probably be obvious due to the person smiling before and while they die (and possibly after.)
But don't get too excited yet. While witnessing a smiley will inevitably turn you into a smiley, there is a buffer in wait time between you witnessing the smiley in different contexts versus you actually becoming the smiley yourself. The window seems to be 4-7 days between first smiley (you witnessing the suicide of the previous smiley) and final smiley (killing yourself.)
What will you do with your time? There are only so many hours in a day. You will be witnessing many a smile over the course of the next week, and while they may be frightening, these initial smiles don't seem to control much of your fate. One may secretly replace the awesome trainset you gifted your nephew with your own dead cat... for fun, I guess? Maybe this qualifies your nephew to become a smiley in twenty years time.
...but other than that, now's the time to just lose your mind and go wild. Talk to your therapist (by the way, you are also a psychiatrist.) Talk to your weird husband. Talk to your weird sister. Talk to your normal ex. He'll help you learn about the smileys, but he'll act super weird about it and use it as an excuse to dox you or whatever, I don't know. It's fine though because not only is he the only person who believes you (besides a previous smiley who got out of killing himself through a technicality), he's also going to be your star witness to your own smilification. The smiley even gives a cute little warning on the day you're supposed to die. It just sort of grabs you, shakes you around a bit, says "you're gonna die!!!" and then... well, the scene just kind of ends there. Maybe the smiley just let themselves out? What an awkward image.
Q: Wait, there's a technicality?
A: Yeah, you just uhh... you just kill somebody. But somebody's gotta witness it so that THEY will become the smiley eventually.
Q: Or what if I just, like, left? Lived out on my own for a week? If there's no witness, would the smiley just not carry itself on to anyone?
A: That's what your witness is for, dummy.
In fact, your ex, who is also a cop, cares so deeply about you that he will track you down to your abandoned childhood home despite presumably not having been told you were planning on confronting your long-dead cruel mother who you let die after she regretted deliberately overdosing. Your ex is basically a Grand Theft Auto NPC spawning when needed.
But that's good! Because the true smiley was your mother all along. The smiley wears masks of people you know, but the truest form of all is that of your mom if she was really tall and kinda creepy. Not only are you in smiley vicinity, but you have your witness there too!
Okay, okay, your mom is probably just a mask as well. When she rips off her face, she's a scary demon person with fifty mouths, presumably one for each prior smileys original traumatic experience. The smiley is not one individual, but a manifestation of trauma as it passes through tragedies and the trauma that carries from one person to the next.
Your next step is to vore your mom. Don't worry, she will help you out.
And after that, you're all set! The smiley will take it from here. Your witness will barge in at just the right moment, will witness you being a cheeky lil smiler, and then the smiley (inside of you, acting as you) will commit smileycide in front of your witness. Now your witness will become a smiley within a week. Or a murderer. Unless he doesn't meet the prior qualifications, or dies in the fire before being able to pass on the smiley, or becomes a recluse with no equally stalker-y witness to observe him, in which case I guess that's the end of the whole smiley thing...
...did I mention your mom is really tall now?