A taut woman, Edith Leon was of necessity a methodical woman. She could not abide the world to float about her as it chose. Mysteries, ambiguities, exacerbated her. So she retaliated. She marshaled the world into patterns. She embraced a System. First-born was Theory, but soon after came Idea, and lastly. Perception. The world ceased to float. The world was fixed, coherent, sensible as a bucket-brigade from a cistern.

Gestures, words, pictures, art—all became clues, surrogates,flares lit by the troubled in their darkness for those who could translate... so concluded Edith Leon, formerly college student of psychology, now translator of events, wife of Walter Leon, a clothier, and mother of Warren, a clever and disturbing young doodler.

Years before she had gathered together Warren’s abandoned high-school texts, flyleaves littered with grinning birds about to kill, killing, or having killed grinning fish. In a small black booklet concealed in a dresser beneath Warren’s socks and underwear she unearthed a sequence resembling the hieroglyphs of an ancient ceremonial tomb. Page after page was populated by a breed of men whose foreheads sloped without indentation to acutely angular nose tips. Most of the faces were in profile. Lips were singularly thin with slight downward turns at the mouth. Eyes were ovoid and large, encasing circular, uncolored pupils. The eyes lacked brows and lashes. But the most shocking particular was their martial helmets—falcons with dark lizard eyes peered over human heads until headpiece fused to head and falcons nested in human brains.