Julia kept walking, hoping to find someone else who worked at the school. After wandering for a while, she arrived at the Biological Sciences building.
Julia was about to enter the building when she heard a grunting noise coming from down the hall. She froze. The grunting grew louder and she saw a large, looming shadow around the corner. First the paw, then the head. White. It was a polar bear.
Terrified, Julia was about to make a run for it, when she was grabbed from behind. “Stop!” a woman's voice whispered. “She's not going after you.” Julia turned around and looked up at a woman in her late 30's, with black hair and glasses.
The polar bear walked away from the hall and out towards a courtyard nearby. A few polar bear cubs followed her.
“Look at the way they move together,” the woman whispered. “It's fascinating.”
The woman took some notes down in a journal and then turned to Julia, holding out her hand. “Margaret Johnson, Professor of Field Biology, good to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you,” Julia answered.
“Oh look, they're hunting!” Professor Johnson pointed towards the polar bears.
“Hunting what?” Julia asked.
The polar bear and her cubs were walking towards a frozen fountain in the center of the courtyard. Suddenly, a seal popped its head up above the ice in the fountain. When it saw the bear and her cubs approaching, it quickly went back under the water.
The polar bear went to the edge of the fountain, next to the hole the seal had just emerged from, and waited.
“You see,” Professor Johnson said. The polar bear knows that the seal has to come back up for air, so she will wait there patiently until the seal reemerges.
Professor Johnson continued to jot down notes, muttering to herself. “Ursus maritimus is showing characteristic hunting behavior. Time is 14:25. Pagophilus groenlandicus is submerged in the water.”
The professor paused and turned to Julia, “Those are the scientific names for the polar bear and the harp seal, you know? Ursus maritimus mean's 'bear of the sea' and Pagophilus groenlandicus means 'ice-lover from Greenland.'” She turned back to her notes and continued, “Now if my estimates are correct, that seal should reemerge in about 15 minutes...”
“after which the bear will surely strike and claim it's prey.”
“Professor, you might want to look at this.”
“If I only had a camera, I'd be able to capture it on film and...”
Professor Johnson looked up from her notepad and her jaw dropped.
There were animals all around the courtyard. Dozens of arctic foxes trotted across, a hurricane of snowy owls swooped down, and several more polar bears emerged. It was a dazzling, white display of animals.
“Oh my word!” Professor Johnson exclaimed. “Here, take these,” she said as she shoved her notes into Julia's hands, pulled out a camera, and started snapping away furiously. “Never in my professional career have I seen such a spectacle. It is too beautiful to be true.”
The polar bears joined the mother and the cubs at the fountain. The snowy owls had landed in some trees nearby, ruffling their feathers and preening. The arctic foxes were playing with each other on the snowy grass.
Professor Johnson muttered to herself again, “Foxes are displaying typical recreational canine behavior, owls are showing natural aversion to predators, polar bears cooperating to hunt the seal...”
Suddenly, the snowy owls flew away from the tree branches. A lean, four-legged animal emerged from the shadow of the trees into the daylight. It was a mixture of white and gray with black spots and light green eyes.
Professor Johnson gasped, “Snow leopard,” and proceeded to take several photos. “I never thought I'd see one in the wild. Unbelievable. Strange that a crepuscular animal would be active in broad daylight though...”
“Wait.” Julia interjected. “In the wild? What do you mean, in the wild? This is a school campus.”
Professor Johnson laughed. “Nope, they are in the wild.” She handed Julia her camera and said, “Look.”
Julia peered through the camera and almost dropped it. When she looked through the lens, the camera somehow transformed the landscape around them. The fountain had disappeared and was replaced with an icy pool of water, the school buildings were changed into rock formations, and the paved floor beneath her feet turned into snow and soil.
Julia zoomed in on the snow leopard, which was staring right at her and the professor. “Ah,” the professor said. “Looks like she's spotted us.” Julia continued to peer at the snow leopard through the camera, when it suddenly leapt forward and ran towards them.
“Uh oh,” Professor Johnson said, “Run!”
Julia dropped the camera, the landscape transformed back to normal, and she ran as fast as she could. Hearing the snarls of the leopard behind her, she saw an open door in one of the buildings, ran inside, and tried to close it. It was jammed. She saw that there was a kick-down door holder keeping the door open. The leopard had rounded the corner. After two unsuccessful attempts to undo the door holder, she gave up and decided to run inside. She tripped. Sprawled on the floor, inside the building, Julia looked up at the open doorway and saw the snow leopard peering in at her.
She was done for. She closed her eyes, ready for the worst...but nothing happened. She cracked open her eyes and the snow leopard was gone.