The Devil and Mr. Otis

The first time I saw him, we were outside the the elevators on the 26th floor of the Masquerade Tower of the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino. He wore a long, black, leather coat–the length intriguing because it was longer than a sport jacket but not as long as an overcoat. His hair was jet black and held a slight curl. His eyes, though, were the first things to really hold my attention. Within seconds of standing next to him and waiting for the elevator’s familiar ding, I knew he would never blink in my presence. Further, I knew he wasn’t looking at me. He was looking in me.

I remember the slightest of chills. The guy was probably in his mid-20s, but his eyes said he was a thousand years old. When we got on the elevator together, he stole a brief glance at my Nikon.

“You getting some good pictures?” he asked.

Those were the first words the Devil ever said to me.

***

I don’t–or perhaps I should say didn’t–believe in the Devil any more than I believe in there being a capital “G” God that runs the show. Even though I felt uncomfortable with the guy while we rode down the 26 floors to the casino, I didn’t ever actually think he was the Devil. However, I thought it might make for a fun story later. I watched the Devil walk away slowly as slot machines clattered and the Rio’s brimstone stunk up the joint with smoke, booze, and food.

I didn’t think much about it until the next day when I started to get on the elevator and found the Devil was already there. He smiled with a row of too-white teeth and still unblinking eyes. This time he didn’t say anything.

Over the course of the next week, the guy was everywhere I went. One day, he showed up at a poker tournament. I spotted the back of his head from across the room. Even though he was wearing a suit, I knew it was him. His mane of pitch-hair was hard to miss. By now, I’d grown a little wary of the guy. My little joke about the Devil had grown unto a genuine discomfort with his presence. I wanted to take a picture of him, but every time I started to aim the lens in his direction, he looked up and–again–in me. I’ve never been afraid to snap the shutter on a camera before. This time, I didn’t. It was if I couldn’t will myself to have a digital record of the Devil. By the end of the week, I avoided the guy at every turn. If I saw him walking in the hallway, I turned around or ducked into another room.

Now, keep in mind, if I were joking here, it wouldn’t be the funny. If I were speaking metaphorically, it would be more than a little trite. The fact that I’m serious makes it more than a little weird.

After a few drinks one night, I ran into the guy in the hallway and couldn’t avoid him. He didn’t seem startled at all when I walked up and stood directly in front of him.

“Who are you?” I demanded. If I hadn’t had three beers in my stomach I would never have had the courage.

The guy spit out a name and said he was from Austin. For some reason, I replied in kind.

“What do you do?” I demanded again.

His omnipresent smile grew a little wider.

“What do I do?” He still never blinked. “I guess you could say I’m a jack of all trades.”

Jack of all trades? I took a step back. I was now sure the guy from Austin was either a drug dealer or, in fact, the Devil himself.

He never looked away from me, never blinked, and never stopped smiling. The rest of the conversation is lost in a wash of near-real fear. So, at the end of the conversation, when the guy asked me what I where I was headed, I further narrowed my read on the guy. He was either was a drug dealer or the Devil. Moreover, he either wanted my ass or he wanted my soul.

The Devil scared the fuck out of me and I never spoke to him again.

***

Lest you think I’m making this up, there are several people I told about this as it happened. They started spotting the guy for me and warning me about his presence.

During one of my last night’s in Vegas, I was looking for a back way out of a convention hall. I saw a door and headed toward it. It was very late at night and I thought I saw someone sleeping. I turned around and my friend Gene was standing there.

“There he is,” he said, nodding behind me.

I turned back around, and there was the Devil. I shuddered and found another door as fast as I could.

For the rest of the night, I hid. A joke and story subject–a mere character in my little one-act life show–had become an irrational source of fear. By the end of it, I was actually afraid to be alone with the guy.

The Devil knew my name. The Devil knew my patterns. The Devil knew where I was.

The Devil knew Otis. And now Otis had seen the Devil.

***

I’m home now and haven’t left the confines of my house for the past 36 hours. Apart from taking my kid to get a haircut and maybe getting one for myself, I don’t see myself leaving for a while. I know I am safe here.

I’m not saying my run-in with the Devil made me fear hell. I’m just saying that I think I’ve spoken with its fearless leader, I’m an easy mark for the son of a bitch, and I don’t need to be pushing my luck.

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