Zine Review: The Paper Trail Diary’s Chain Letter Short Story Project #2

 This second short story in Jessica Lewis’ chain letter project is remarkably consistent in tone and style, considering it was built by eight different writers. After Lewis started the narrative, it traveled to Australia, India, Pakistan, Spain, the Czech Republic, England, the United States and then back to Toronto, with contributors each adding a few paragraphs of text and an illustration.

As Lewis notes in her introduction, her tale turned dark quickly, but it started with a woman in an Alcoholics Anonymous session, so it may have already been leaning in that direction. The protagonist, it turns out, is a disgraced Olympic swimmer who committed some not-quite-mentioned, but publicly known, crime against another person. This looming transgression is a tantalizing character in itself, but there’s also an alluring semi-stranger (whose presence is reminiscent of the Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files) lurking in the shadows, waiting for a rendezvous that may have something to do with a Being John Malkovich-like body possession. This story gets even wackier as it progresses (before returning to Earth in its final chapter) and that’s the best thing it has going for it — there’s never a dull moment. (Scott Bryson)