My sister Reem was five years old when the horror inducing incident took place. The year was 1986; a year before my birth, and the day was as any other in the stiflingly hot embrace of July. My family was gathered in my Grandmother’s house as a part of their annual trip to Egypt. My three sisters, Rania, Riham and of course Reem had flung themselves out in different positions in their protest that our Grandmother’s house doesn’t have air conditioning at every corner like we have in the Gulf. With the TV broken down and the only things creating noise in the room being the fan, a political conversation between my father and my uncle, my mom pouring tea for my Grandmother and the random sighs and gasps from my sisters who believed they were on the verge of heat strokes, Reem was going out of her mind with boredom. Suddenly Reem got up off the red and white couch and announced something to my sisters, who didn’t hear her as they were too busy debating whether my grandmother’s house or hell would faster melt a person’s skin off.
A while later, almost 45 minutes or so, my Uncle’s conversation with my Dad turned from political to social; the area where my Grandmother lived had been witnessing the missing of some young children, people were starting to believe there was a kidnapper in town. My mother who had almost dozed off suddenly was wide awake. “What? A kidnapper here? How come we never heard about this! Oh my God that is very scary!” she exclaimed while she half turned to where my sisters were sitting to warn them. She only counted two. “Rania, Reham, where is Reem?” she asked. Reham who was convinced she was in a coma due to dehydration mumbled something about Reem probably being in the other room. My mom jumped out of her chair and in two minutes had searched the tiny house. “Ahmed I can’t find Reem anywhere!!” she yelled feverishly. My father sprung into action and even my comatose sisters were up on their feet. The house was searched again before my dad and uncle ran out to the street asking random people if they saw a little girl and running around yelling the youngest daughter’s name. My sisters were at the doorstep too afraid to venture into the dangerous streets yet barely containing their panic. My mother collapsed onto a couch crying hysterically while my Grandmother tried to console her.
An eternal half an hour passed before my father and uncle returned panting and terrified. “We have to call the police” my father announced. He reached for the phone and right before he presses on the third digit, my sister Reham yelled “look!” The whole family turned to where her finger was pointed. A tiny Reem was emerging from a small concealed compartment in the main hall’s cupboard. With her hair disheveled and with her hands trying to wipe the sleep out of her eyes, she stretched, yawned and asked “why did nobody come to find me?” Apparently the whispered announcement she made before she left the room was the decision to play hide and seek. What started as an exciting game had ended up as an 80 minute long nap and a family’s colossal terror.
Today, 22 years later, the words “hide and seek” are still capable of inducing a few raised eyebrows and reminiscing smiles from the veterans of the family.