"And what shall you be?" the shadow said, striding through the darkened room, raising no dust in its wake.
"What I am," he said, "is an old man no-one has any use for, surrounded by books that nobody else wants to read. The prison I've built for myself title by title, page by page." He looked at the shadow.
"Talking to ghosts."
The shadow smiled. "The sharpest pencil dulls, even if you never use it." Paper rustled, in the dark.
"Get off your ass. There's work yet to be done."
So he betook himself once more to his labor, staring at the blank word document before him, and began to type.
"Look miss, we ain't got any wavy-bladed daggers." the hooded man said. His fellows had called him Brother John.
"No wavy-bladed daggers? Can't have a sacrifice without that now can you. Wouldn't be proper." The woman in said, as Brother Jack tied her wrists to the small plinth at the top of the altar stone.
"Well proper or not, it's not in the budget. Now this knife is sharp as anything, it'll do you a treat."
The both eyed the single-edged blade critically. It had a disturbing resemblance to an old cooking knife.
"A budget? What kind of death cult runs on a budget?" An edge of disbelief was overcoming the desperation in her voice.
"The kind that can't count on tithing." Brother John said, as Brother Jack made a grab for one of her legs, and received a solid kick for his troubles.
"Here, help me with this." Jack said, and John set the knife in his pocket for a minute as they each grabbed a leg. She gave a little shriek as they pulled her knees apart, and for a moment her dark skirts went billowing and revealed the mystery within.
"Blimey," John said after a moment. "I thought you was a miss, mister."
"I'm a woman in every way that counts!" she said, blushing hotly.
Jack and John looked at each other, each still holding a leg. It was like the ocean trying to listen to itself by putting up a seashell to either ear.
"Must be a virgin," Jack proffered. "The finding stone wouldn't be wrong about that."
"Must be," John admitted. "For at least a certain value thereof. But what if you-know-who doesn't care for the sacrifice?"
"Well now, I've never been entirely certain on what gender he-or-she-or-it is." Jack said. "I mean, we always bring girls, and it's happy enough with it and all, but there's those things...down there, y'know."
"Yeah, I know. We got the engraver in on the new edition of the unholy text last time. Practically an anatomy chart by itself down there. Had to give him a cold bath afterwards so he could concentrate on things."
Quietly, the young woman on the altar began to sob.
"This is just so..." she snivelled "...typical. You're just as sexist as all the other bastards. I can't help it if I was born with this thing between my legs. I mean, you try and you try and you do everything right and...and I have to go about every day just wearing a mask and pretending to be someone I'm not, and at night at least I can dress up and feel pretty and go out where no one knows me and just be myself, and now here I am and I'm not even good enough to be raped to death by whatever bastard demon or tentacle spawn you hooded ratfucks worship..." and then a hint of steel crept into her voice.
"Well fuck you, and fuck whatever-its-name-is too! I'm as good a sacrifice as any, and if I can't live as a woman, I can at least damn well die like one. Tie those fucking ropes on! I'll show that prick what a proper sacrifice is like!"
So saying, she offered no resistance as Brother John and Brother Jack finished tying her legs down, spread wide on the Y-shaped altar. They went about the rest of the preparations mechanically and mostly in silence, impressed by her stoicism and her small praises for the things she judged they did well.
As the chanting began, though, she still seemed bitterly disappointed that they didn't have a wavy-bladed dagger.