The following text was excerpted from Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett.


Hours later, under a sliver of moon, Petra was almost asleep. As she rolled over, squashing her pillow into position on top of her arm, a strange thing happened: although her eyes were closed, she seemed to be looking at a young woman.

This person was old-fashioned. She was dressed in a yellow jacket that had dappled fur on the edges, and her hair was pulled back tightly with shiny ribbons. Dangly earrings, perhaps pearls, caught the light. She had been sitting at a table and writing; something had interrupted her. Quill pen in hand, she had paused to look up.

The woman was gazing directly into Petra's eyes. Her expression was knowing, filled with kindness and interest, and she had the look of someone who understood without being told.

Petra found herself soaking up every detail of the image. Although the room was dark, light touched the metal fastening on a wooden box, a fold of blue cloth on the table, the curve of the woman's forehead, the creamy lemon of her jacket. This was a calm, deliberate world, a world where dreams were real and each syllable held the light like a pearl. It was a writer's world — and Petra was inside it.

And then, as suddenly as she had appeared, the woman began to fade from Petra's mind. As this happened, Petra felt recognized, as if this person knew who she, Petra Andalee, was. It was a shocking feeling — exhilarating, shivery, true. And somehow inevitable, as if things had always been this way.

Wide awake now, Petra thought of Charles Fort. Was he responsible for the woman's visit? Had he brought them together? Educated by surprises. . . Fort understood what Petra had often felt: There is much more to be uncovered about the world than most people think.

If she'd had any idea how much more, Petra wouldn't have slept at all that night.