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.