Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
Let me just make something clear: I never get to go out somewhere nice. Like ever. My best friend and I struggle just to pay our bills every month, so anything fancier than McDonald’s is usually out of the question. We’ll save up for months to go on one of our “roommate dates,” so it’s a really special treat.
I’ve never been to The Lotus Bloom before, but it’s one of those overpriced pop-ups around the city that everyone has been raving about. We just barely got a reservation, and I was SO excited to go. We basically had the menu memorized before we even arrived.
But the second we were seated, I see this mother and her kid like three tables over. Honestly, it kind of shocked me given the price of the place. Of course, I was mostly just worried about the child throwing a temper tantrum and ruining the atmosphere.
I mean, look, I’m not a huge kid person, but I don’t mind them when they’re well-behaved, or at least in places they belong. I’m not gonna give you the stink eye if your brat is screaming in the middle of Chuck E. Cheese. But this is a nice place with no kids menu and a $40 per plate minimum. Like, who in their right mind takes a little kid here?
I tried not to look over, but Steph was obviously annoyed, too. The girl looked about six or seven, so I thought maybe she was too old to throw a fit at a restaurant, but I didn’t count on it. It was just a knee-jerk reaction, you know? I was on edge, anticipating having to deal with another parent who just didn’t give a crap if their precious poopsie was bothering the other guests.
At any rate, it was relatively quiet so far. We ordered our food, and after chatting for a while, I pretty much forgot all about the kid.
Then the screaming began.
There was no warm-up — it went from upscale ambiance to a shrill, blood-curdling shriek. I would have thought the kid was being murdered, and I looked over reflexively. However, immediately after that ice pick to the skull, the kid was laughing at the top of her lungs as she ran back and forth down the aisle.
The mother, for her part, didn’t even seem to notice. Totally detached, staring off into space. So we all have to deal with it while the mom just blocks it out.
I looked around and saw that a few other people were just as annoyed, though none were staring as blatantly as I was. I tried to catch the mother’s eye, but she was a million miles away.
I waited to see if the wait staff would do anything, but I figured they weren’t allowed to intervene like that. I remember a news story years ago where parents were outraged by a restaurant putting up a sign asking parents to keep their kids behaved. I felt like getting up and yelling at the woman myself, but I didn’t want to end up getting kicked out instead.
Now before you get all mad at me, I’m not hating on the kid herself–just on the fact that this wasn’t really the place for her. And honestly, it isn’t the kids so much as the people raising them. Can’t fault the child. So I tried really hard to just ignore the laughter. Obviously it’s better than screaming. Loud and a bit annoying, but whatever. I didn’t want to let it ruin my night. Steph had this super irritated look on her face, and I knew she was thinking the same thing. But neither of us said anything.
Our food arrived a few minutes later, and it looked even better than the pictures on the site. How often does that happen? For a second, I was too focused on my meal to stress over an unruly child. However, I barely had my fork in my hand when the little girl started shrieking again.
I jerked my head over and saw the kid standing next to her table, staring right at her mother and screaming in rage. Again, the mother didn’t respond, even when the little girl started knocking cups off the table. The tantrum escalated as the girl began pushing chairs over, but her mom just sat there like nothing was happening.
I couldn’t believe she was that passive about her kid’s behavior, and I tried to catch her gaze so that she would know it. But that was when I noticed the mother’s expression. Like really noticed it. She wasn’t just a little spaced out. It was like she couldn’t hear the kid at all. In fact, her eyes were kind of glazed over, and for the first time, I saw how pale and exhausted she looked. Maybe that’s normal for a parent with a difficult child, but this just seemed… different.
The sound of shattering glass made me jump, and I realized the girl has managed to break a plate. That was when a server finally approached. Maybe the manager, based on the attire. I was relieved and really hoped they just asked the woman to go. It was hard not to rubberneck, but I turned back to my plate. Maybe they’d leave without causing a scene.
But when the girl screamed again, it was like a shockwave through the restaurant. My water rattled, and Steph and I looked at each other. I heard a strange sound, and when I looked over, I noticed the manager was partially hunched over. His hand was on his mouth, and his eyes were closed. As his legs started to buckle, I noticed blood trickling out of his ear. He collapsed, and I could clearly see blood pouring from his mouth and nose, too.
Most of us stood up then. Some diners ran over to help, calling for someone to dial 911. I noticed people around me with their phones out before I could even reach for mine. But seconds later, the girl was screaming again, and all of the people who’d been trying to help the manager suddenly cried out in agony. Several of them fell over, and the ones who didn’t were holding their heads.
I noticed that they all had blood running from their ears, some of them their noses. Even their eyes. I stumbled back and knocked over my chair. Steph was up now, too, and we inched away from the scene.
The girl screamed again, and several of the patrons screamed with her as blood gushed from their mouths, eyes, and ears. The rest of them hit the ground then. Some of them had their eyes open, unblinking. Dead-eyed, like the mother.
The little girl turned to face the rest of us, her face red with rage.
I can’t remember clearly what happened after that. I recall people screaming and pushing, rushing to the doors. Steph and I were just far enough back to avoid getting trampled, as tables, chairs, and people alike were shoved out of the way.
When the girl screamed again, all I could hear was ringing. I cringed and grabbed my ears. They were wet. For a moment, my vision swayed, and I thought I might pass out. Beside me, Steph had fallen to her knees. I gritted my teeth and grabbed her by the elbow, hurrying to the exits as fast as I could.
But when I got there, I saw people freaking out, banging on the doors and windows, unable to open them. There were people at the emergency exit, people throwing chairs at the glass. The doors weren’t budging.
My ears throbbed, but my hearing was starting to come back now. I looked over and saw the little girl crawling up to the level where all of us were huddled. Tables and chairs began to topple out of her way without her even touching them. My adrenaline was too high to really process what I was seeing. I just knew we had to get out of there.
There were no other options, so I grabbed Steph and made a run for the back. I figured there had to be an exit through the kitchen, though I feared it would be blocked too. It was better than just standing there, either way. Once we reached the kitchen, however, I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one with that idea. We met an aggressive crowd, pushing through the small space in a frenzy. If we tried to push through, we’d probably be injured.
When the girl screamed again, even from the other room, the pots on the stove exploded, covering people with boiling water. Some of the burners were still on, and fire burst through the air, spreading over the panicked patrons. I froze, watching people burn alive before me, until Steph grabbed my hand and pulled. Together, we ran down the back hall.
It was a dead-end, but for the bathrooms. The handicapped restroom was the only one that was single-stall. The only room that locked. We ran inside and secured it, then put our legs up against the door from that position to make it harder to open. Of course, putting pressure on the door won’t stop it from being ripped off its hinges, and I get the feeling that our efforts are pointless.
I tried 911 several times, but all I heard was a sharp, static kind of sound. The screaming outside of the room was so loud, I felt like it was cutting through me. It went on for a long, long time.
Steph and I have been in here now for a good half hour. The screams have gradually died down. It’s gotten pretty quiet.
We talked about checking to see what was happening, but I don’t think it’s such a good idea. Especially not when it’s so silent after all that. Even if people had managed to escape, it wouldn’t be this… still.
I can hear steps, though, echoing down the hallway. Someone is heading our way. Short, bouncy steps. Skipping, maybe.
Steph is reaching for my hand.
I guess I’m done typing anyway.
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