Excerpt: Anne Rice's New Thriller 'Of Love and Evil'

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And all were known and loved as I was known and loved. All were known as even their prayers for me became part of their own glorious unfolding within this endless and golden weave.

"Don't send me away. Don't send me back. But if you must, let me do your Will, let me do it with all my heart," I prayed, and I heard my own words become as fluid as the music that surrounded me and sustained me. I heard my own particular and certain voice. "I love You. I love You who made all things and gave us all things and for You I will do anything, I will do what it is You want of me. Malchiah, take me. Take me for Him. Let me do His Will!"

Not a single word was lost in this great womb of love that surrounded me, this vast night that was as bright as day. For neither day nor night mattered here, and both were blended and all was perfect, and the prayers rising and rising, and overlapping, and the angels calling were all one firmament to which I completely surrendered, to which I completely belonged.

Something changed. Still I heard the plaintive voice of that angel pleading for me, reminding Malchiah of all that I was to do. And I heard Malchiah's gentle reproof and ultimate insistence, and I heard the prayers so thick and wondrous that it seemed I would never need a body again to live or love or think or feel.

Yet something changed. The scene shifted.

I saw the great rise of the Earth beneath me and I drifted downwards feeling a slow but certain and aching chill. Let me stay, I wanted to plead, but I didn't deserve to stay. It was not my time to stay, and I had to feel this inevitable separation. Yet what opened now before me wasn't the Earth of my expectations but vast fields of wheat blowing golden under a sky more vivid in the brightening sun than I had ever beheld. Everywhere I looked I saw the wildflowers, "the lilies of the field," and I saw their delicacy and their resilience as the force of the breeze bent them to and fro. This was the wealth of the Earth, the wealth of its blowing trees, the wealth of its gathering clouds.

"Dear God, never to be away from you, never to wrong you, never to fail you in faith or in heart," I whispered, "for this, all this you have given me, all this you have given us."

And there followed on my whisper an embrace so close, so total, that I wept with my whole soul.

The fields grew vague and large and a golden emptiness enveloped the world and I felt love embracing me, holding me, as if I were being cradled by it, and the flowers shifted and turned into masses of colors I couldn't describe. The very presence of colors we did not know struck me deep and rendered me helpless. Dear God, that you love us so very much.

Shapes were gone. Colors had detached themselves effortlessly from shapes, and the light itself was rolling now as if it were a soft and consuming smoke.

There appeared a corridor and I had the distinct impression, in words, that I had passed through it. And now, down the long corridor there came to me the tall slender figure of Malchiah, clothed as he always was, a graceful figure, like that of a young man.

I saw his soft dark hair, his oval face. I saw his simple dark suit with its narrow lines.

I saw his loving eyes, and then his slow and fluid smile. I saw him reach out to me with both arms.

"Beloved," he whispered. "I need you once again. I will need you countless times. I will need you till the end of time."

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