The boy is definitely in danger and needs to be our priority right now. I hope Alton will be alright...
"We have to find that key." He swallowed back the knot in his throat. "Somehow."
Susan frowned, looking back at the freezer. "Where do we even begin?"
"I don't know..."
"Whatever you have chosen to do," Micah muttered, lifting his eyes to them. "Do so quickly. I would prefer not to fight off Gabriel if it comes to that. You understand, Nathan."
The writer nodded quickly as he motioned for Susan to follow, whipping out his cell phone again for light. He had no idea where he was going, but he figured if they just went somewhere, they'd find something. Their footsteps seemed to echo a little louder as they moved through the abandoned factory, and every sound seemed just a little clearer, a little sharper, as if the environment itself was aware of their paranoia and eager to capitalize on it. Susan clung as close to Nathan as she could without actually touching him, her phone adding a shaky light to his, and she was quiet for a long time, except for the occasional whimper, until they reached another door that seemed to have light peeking out from under it. "Nathan?"
His hand hovered over the doorknob as he looked over his shoulder at her. "Hm? What? Did you hear something again?"
Susan shook her head and looked down at her feet, hair falling down in front of her face. "No, I was just wondering what Micah meant. You know, when he said that you understand?" She peeked up at him through her bangs. "Gabriel... isn't he the angel of the apocalypse?"
"Yes, but that's not what he was referring to." Nathan sighed and turned around, figuring there was no reason not to tell her. "He's Death. With a capital D. He was my guardian angel until he failed to protect me, so he's on probation from that. The... well, I think the thing he was talking about was something that happened at the end of last month." He paused, but decided to tell her the rest. "Remember how I told we already dealt with Avarice and we only have six Sins left to handle?"
Susan nodded. "Like I said before, I thought you were nuts when you told me, but I can't exactly deny this madness now. What about Avarice?"
"In order to save her host, I killed myself."
The photographer's eyes widened and she raised a shaky hand to point at him. "You...?"
"Well, I almost did," Nathan quickly clarified, shaking his head. "Gabriel was forced to spare the host because his priority was protecting me, so we were able to get him to the hospital in time. Needless to say, my guardian wasn't exactly happy with my actions, but it worked. Anyway, that's what I think Micah was talking about. He means that, if the kid is close to dying, Gabriel will show up, and he really doesn't want to fight him to save him."
Susan took all this in with stunned silence, then slowly nodded. "Yeah, that probably wouldn't be pleasant."
"No..." Nathan turned back to the door. "So let's keep moving and pray it doesn't take too long to locate that key."
Again, she nodded, and the writer placed his hand on the doorknob, twisting it with determination and throwing the door open.
The light they had seen was coming from a small kerosene camping lamp in the middle of the room. Whatever its original purpose, the space was so gutted and decayed that all that remained was the plumbing and concrete. In a few places along the walls and floor, rebar stuck out, rusted and bent at odd angles. But the first thing that caught Nathan and Susan's attention was the shaking figure huddled in one corner. He lifted his head, squinting as he opened himself up to the light of the lamp, face dirty and streaked from tears that still rolled down his cheeks. "Qǐng bāng wǒ..."
"Jesus fucking Christ," Nathan muttered as he hurried across the room, Susan close behind, crouching beside Wren when he reached him. "What happened? Are you alright?"
The teen shook his head, sniffling, then adjusted how he was seated so they could see the crude shackle around one of his wrists that chained him to a pipe jutting out of the floor. "No," he croaked, trying to wipe his face with the back of his hand. "I found out what Ira's been doing with all those people she's killed, and... and the only way to get her to leave me alone." He stared directly at Nathan. "Was it this bad for Avery when he was possessed?"
Nathan wasn't sure how to answer him. "Well, he was drenched in boiling oil, so..."
Wren sobbed, curling up again and burying his head in his arms. "I know, because that was the only way to get the Sin to leave." He lifted his head. "That's what his Sin's punishment was supposed to be." He swallowed loudly. "Ira's been h-having me c-c-cook for Gula..."
"Cook?" Susan asked with clear confusion on her face. Wren looked like he was ready to vomit.
"You know about the deaths that have happened lately. Where do you think the missing body parts have gone?"
The photographer gasped, covering her mouth as she turned away with disgust. "Oh my God..."
Somehow, this elicited a scoff that vaguely sounded like a laugh from Wren. "I doubt He cares anymore." The teen lowered his head again. "Gula's already severed from her host. I overheard them talking about it the last time they m-made me cook." He cringed as if choking back bile. "Apparently, her host had eaten frog legs or something, which coincided with Gula's punishment, so she was almost immediately separated from her. She la-lamented the fact that Ira's p-p-punishment is m-much harder t-to enact by aci-acident..."
Wren began to shake so badly, began crying so hard, that he couldn't speak. But Nathan knew where this was going, even before Susan asked, "What is it?"
"Wren's possessed by Wrath," the writer said flatly, trying to curb the dread that was quickly filling him. "Wrath's punishment in Hell is dismemberment."
"I have to lose a limb to make her leave me alone!" Wren cried, then buried his head back into his arms, sobbing. "Avery barely made it to the hospital with his burns. How am I supposed to survive losing an entire arm or leg?"
"A miracle," Susan said quietly. After that, an uneasy silence fell over the room. Nathan's heart raced painfully in his chest. The situation kept becoming more and more desperate; now they had to figure out someway to save Wren too. He wished there was some other way to separate him from Ira...
Wren's sobbing began to lessen, and once his panic had died down, he spoke again. "It has to be done, doesn't it?" He stared at Nathan. "Survive or not, Ira is stronger when she can use me as a host, isn't she?"
Nathan shrugged, brows knotted as he shook his head. "I don't know..."
"Fèihuà! No one can hurt her when she... when she possesses me!" Wren glared at him, yanking on his restraint, then sighed and slumped against the wall. "I don't like being angry all the time." He paused for a moment, looking down at the floor. "There's a fire axe in the corner. Make it quick, and maybe it won't be as bad."
"WHAT?!" Nathan staggered back and stared at him in disbelief. "Have you lost your mind? Just a moment ago, you..."
"Were worried about dying?" The teen had become eerily calm, as though his will was completely drained. "I would rather die than play host to Wrath." He caught Nathan's gaze again. "Please?"
Fuck. Just... fuck. I can't... I won't... But it is the only way. He might die, but there's always the chance...
Jesus Christ, how can I go through with it?