It was December in the year Nineteen Hundred and Ninety Nine when The Amazing Tobias encountered the shark.
He was scheduled in New York for a series of magic performances for the street and stage, but as it happened on that particular night, there was no show scheduled. Tobias, believing in never having unproductive nights, took to The Brooklyn Museum of Art's mummy wing to watch the Egyptians live forever. In his eyes it was important for all vampires to look upon works of the past to begin to understand the future, especially those concerning death and the things after. It was a rare chance to stare into the face of kings who chased immortality, and to look upon ancient workings of magic. If he were lucky, perhaps there would be an opportunity to find some alchemic writings for later reference and study.
Unfortunately, Tobias had forgotten that the last time he visited the museum was a little over sixty years ago, and after many expansion and moving things around, he no longer knew where anything was, nor could he make heads or tails of the directory. Thus, he drifted about the great building, hoping that he would eventually find his way.
In perfect honesty, while he appreciated what they offered, he did not much care for museums all on his lonesome. Vampires are all a little agoraphobic by nature, preferring the security of tight enclosed spaces and while not absurdly spacious, museums had an empty, lonely feeling to them. In the night, the fluorescent lights became harsher against the labyrinth of white walls blaring against his eyes and his footsteps echoed all about him. After a time, the vampiric magician no longer had much remaining interest in the dead pharaohs as he did in an exit.
It was in this unsettled manner of drifting that he ventured into the modern art exhibit. The Amazing Tobias was never an aficionado of visual art in general to tell the truth, he enjoyed portraits and landscapes for the accurate recreation of the subject matter, or their historical importance. He was never one to concern himself with what a piece was supposed to mean, or how it reflected the artist's view on society or the universe or what have you. Modern art wasn't much different, save for the fact it was possibly even less interesting. The bold marks of polygons and wild splashes of paints and daring depictions of multiple soup cans bored him at best and irritated him at worst.
But of course, there are always exceptions.
It was a flare of blue in the corner that first caught his eye, and as he passed it, his footsteps slowed to a stop. He tilted his head to the side and blinked, perplexed at the oddity before him. Was this perhaps a wayward display for the science museum? Or perhaps it was a very detailed sculpture in the wrong wing. What was a model of a tiger shark doing in the middle of an art museum? It was an impressive model, yes, but why in an art museum, and why in this section? It seemed more likely to be located with the other true-to-life sculptures in the other wings of the museum.
Then he saw the display card:
The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living
Artist: Damien Hirst
Type: Tiger shark, glass, steel, 5% formaldehyde solution, 213 x 518 x 213 cm."
Tobias took a step back, a gloved hand clasped over his mouth. "Oh."
This was not a model and it was not made of wax and it was not misplaced. This was Galeocerdo cuvier, flesh, cartilage, teeth, and all. She silently hung suspended in cyan formaldehyde, the body turning slightly toward the side as if it still swam to face Tobias with a beady eyed stare and her maw of triangular single-file teeth pulled back in a grimace or a scream or a snarl all at once.
Indeed, Galeocerdo cuvier seemed downright defiant if not outraged to be displayed in the same vicinity as abstract paint splatters and polygons. She was a potential devourer of men in suspended animation, not at all alive, but in this condition not exactly dead either. In a way, she was almost both.
Tobias had not seen something so beautiful, or so deeply frightening in a long time, though why it frightened him he couldn't say. He moved closer and circled around the shark several times for different perspectives to get a better look at the creature, to appreciate this fellow man-eater in near undeath. It was his third look over when he realized that the water was looking a little bit murky. Odd. If it was preserved in formaldehyde, it should have been a lot clearer. He didn't see how that could be possible though, unless the shark had… started to rot.
Tobias stopped his pacing and gazed at Galeocerdo cuvier, a deeply troubled frown crossing his face. She was indeed beautifully preserved, but she wasn't going to last much longer. It couldn't be more than several months before her decay would start to show to the point where the display would be gone. Maybe another shark would take her place, or maybe they would get rid of the exhibit permanently.
He smiled sadly at her, "All the more reason to appreciate you in the meantime". And he stayed with her until the museum closed, and the guard told him to leave.
Had you decided to pay a visit to The Brooklyn Museum of Art in the December of Ninety-Nine, you would might have seen the great display of pharaohs, a fine collection of copic art circa 641 AD, and a bold, if not a bit shocking, exhibition of modern art. And had you stayed there until the sun went down, you would eventually have spied a most unusual fellow in the art gallery dressed in a waistcoat and top hat. The Amazing Tobias could be seen there every night that December with the formaldehyde shark, staring into the glass at his reflection.