The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch

Author:Lidia Yuknavitch
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 2017-04-17T16:00:00+00:00

As they near the cave, Joan smells the wet. Wet life that exists only underground. The light between her ear and eye flicker. She sees an azure blue in her periphery when the light is active. And hears the low humming.

When they reach the cave’s mouth, Joan holds her hand up to signal that she will enter first. As always. The cave opens up from the earth in a yawn. Joan toes her feet into footholds carefully etched into the walls of the shaft. She lodges her foot into the first recess and plants her hand against the wall, feeling around with her thumb until she finds a small hole. She sticks her thumb in the hole and disables a thousand tiny poisoned darts ready to pierce anything coming unannounced down the shaft, sixty-five meters deep. She looks briefly up at Leone.

“You’re so retro,” Leone jokes. “All black leather and metal. Still badass after all these years.”

Joan hadn’t considered clothing in a long time. Clothing: a melding of metal and neoprene, fatigues patched together with combat scraps, layers of woven or laminated fibers from old dead wars.

“No one’s visited who isn’t friendly,” Joan says, smiling up at Leone, blood—perhaps hers, perhaps that of a dead soldier, perhaps both—paints her skin near her ear. Itching.

“I told you, nothing Skyward is good,” Leone answers, following her down like a savvy animal.

Briefly, Joan eyes Leone’s body. They’ve grown so close to the land and what is left of it, so accustomed to subterranean life, that she sometimes wonders if they are evolving into a new species, like the thousands they come across underground all over the world. But the shape of Leone’s ass, the slimness of her waist, her breasts and biceps and shoulders and hands as strong as starfish, still say woman in ways Joan refuses to feel all the way through.

Midway down the shaft, water and mud and lichen slicken the walls. Working her way through each foothold and thumb-hole, Joan carves a clear path for them both. At the bottom, she leaps with a thud to the ground. Leone follows. The air immediately takes on its own environment. Cool air trade winds with hot and humid air in pockets and swells. The smell of dirt and rock and shit pungent as peat.

The entryway to home: 5.6 kilometers of passages and a chamber measuring 100 by 240 meters. Joan runs her fingers through her coarse black hair, her hand getting stuck just behind her neck in the thick, forested tangle. Christ. She’ll have to do something about that. But then, why? Even the word—hair—she hasn’t thought of it in years.

This cave is a mouth, a throat, a gullet—and Joan alone knows the perfect passage down, tuning in to the earth’s pulse and rhythm. The floor of the cave falls downward and is everywhere covered with large blocks of stone formations piled in odd order. Joan puts her hand on a stalactite that has nearly completed its journey; a slime of mudwater and regurgitated seeds oozes beneath her fingers.


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