We learned the hard way with Avery that there is really no alternative to separating host from Sin. It has to be done. Oh God, it has to be done...
The writer rubbed his hand across his face, then stood and walked across the room. Sure enough, resting at an angle inside its rusted case was the fire axe, in surprisingly good condition compared to most of the tools they'd seen in the factory. The head of the axe still looked sharp, despite the flecks of rust along its edge. Nathan heard Wren shift and glanced back at him. The teen closed his eyes and leaned back against his wall as if to sleep, but he kept fidgeting and readjusting, opening his eyes a couple of times and trying again before sighing and ultimately giving up, instead looking back at Nathan. "Nǐ hái děng shénme ne?"
"I have no idea what you just said," he grumbled as he pried the axe from its case. The sturdy handle felt heavy in his hands, and he found himself bouncing it in his palms as he slowly turned back. "I think... I think we ought to take the arm that's chained down. Then maybe one of us can get you out of here and to the hospital..."
"Whatever." Wren let his head fall to the side and reached into his shirt pocket with his free hand, fishing out a cigarette. He rolled it between his fingers, then placed it in his mouth before digging out his matches. It took another moment of readjusting and twisting before he was able to maneuver the slack in the chain enough to tear a single match free, strike it, and light his cigarette. Wren tucked the matches away, leaned back, and took a long drag that made the tip of the cigarette glow brilliantly. He released the breath with a sigh, smoke engulfing his face, then looked over at Nathan again. "You have no idea how hard it's been rationing these. I only had one left, so figure now's as good a time as any to smoke it." He coughed, then took another puff. "Just give me a minute."
"Okay." Nathan waited. The teen may have asked him to do this, but it didn't make things any easier. The seconds, minutes ticked by slowly, and with each one that passed the axe felt heavier and heavier. The horror of what he was about to do firmly sank in: he was going to cut off someone's arm. Worse, the more he thought about it, the more horrified he became. This wasn't going to be one easy blow, one clean cut. Realistically, Nathan knew it would take several swings. He'd only used an axe once before, ages ago when his dad had taught him how to chop firewood. He knew the odds of him hitting the same spot each time were slim. He knew that bone was going to be harder to cut through than wood. Vague memories of History class flashed through his mind, about how many swings it took for an executioner to sever a head from its body. Unskilled, the lowest number he could remember was three, the highest, ten. And that was with a sharpened, specialized axe. And at a joint.
Another cough from Wren snapped him from his dreadful musings, time suddenly speeding up. He was finished with his cigarette far too soon. Nathan didn't know if he was ready for this, but the teen ground the butt into the floor, releasing the last mouthful of smoke as he spoke. "Okay. Let's get this over with."
"Okay," Nathan muttered again, stepping forward. Even in the dim light of the lantern, he could see his knuckles were white from the vice-like grip he had on the axe. He swallowed hard, praying this really was the right thing to do. "Let's go."
"Wait... wait." Susan looked at the two of them, then knelt beside Wren, setting her purse in front of her. "L-let's try to take s-some precautions." She fiddled with the long strap, revealing that it was removable as she detached it from both ends. She gave Wren a tentative smile as she coaxed him to scoot over and stretch out his arm, then began tying the length of the strap as tightly and as close to his shoulder as she could. "If we can minimize th-the bleeding..."
"Just stop talking about it and get it done," Wren growled at her, staring in the other direction. "If it doesn't work, I'd still rather be dead."
Nathan didn't comment on that. His eyes were already darting around to room, trying to see if Gabriel would make an appearance. He saw nothing, but that only worried him more. His hands began to shake and he tried desperately to steady them.
"There," Susan said when she finished. The strap had been wrapped about three times around his arm and knotted snuggly, but Wren still didn't look back at it. Susan was already going through her purse again, digging around until she pulled out a rolled up pair of lilac socks. She pressed to bundle to the teen's mouth. "Open, bite," she commanded gently, and he obeyed. Satisfied, she nodded. "That's all we can do. Okay, Nathan. Whenever you're ready."
He wasn't ready. How could he be ready for this? But he made one more sweep of the room with his eyes, and with no angel in sight, finally stepped close enough to Wren to reach him. He began lifting the axe, but stopped. He said nothing to the others as he set the axe down, leaning it against another pipe, then hurried out of the room. He knew there was no time to explain what he was doing, so he made it quick, grabbing the first thing he found that looked about the right height. The block of wood might have been from one of the tables or a shelf or something, and it had a good amount of weight on it. Nathan hoped it would suit his need. Back in the room, he only had to lift Wren's arm slightly to get the block beneath it. Not only did it give him something more solid to strike against, but it also straightened out the teen's arm, giving him a much easier target. Still choking back his nerves, Nathan picked up the axe again. "Now I'm ready," he lied.
Wren mumbled through the socks and squinted his eyes closed. Nathan almost squinted too, but forced himself to look at his target before lifting the axe and bringing it down for its first swing.
The sound was dreadful, the feel of flesh giving way to the more resistant bone even worse. Wren screamed and clenched his jaw on the socks, tears rapidly rolling down his cheeks, and he jerked forward, as if to tear away. Luckily, with his arm already stretched out and still chained to the pipe, there was little room for movement, and Nathan swung again, trying to go quickly, trying to envision the arm as a piece of wood instead of what it really was. The second blow was slightly off from the first, and the impact sent blood splashing back on all of them like hot rain. Susan shrieked and jumped back, trying to protect herself from the spray as Nathan lifted the axe again. He couldn't think, letting the action be automatic, his momentum increasing as he swung again and again and again...
On the seventh whack there was solid thud and a loud clink as the limb was severed and Wren, who'd been pulling desperately since the cutting began, fell forward, his arm going in the opposite direction and falling broken beside the pipe it was still attached to. Susan screamed as the teen fell into her, and Nathan staggered back, dropping the axe abruptly when he realized the deed was done. He tripped over the lamp on the floor, jostling it to the point that the flame went out, plunging the room into darkness. Suddenly blind, Nathan groped his way across the floor, trying to reach a wall and reorient himself. He could hear Wren sobbing, and was relieved by the sound at first...
Then he saw the glowing red eyes.