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I cannot describe the smell of a dozen rotting bodies. My throat clams, then I gag. On iron dissecting tables lay the naked bodies of four men punctured by neat black holes. Their eyes are open but the liquid inside has all gone. Skin has contracted into a greening taut pallor, pulling onto the jut and ridge of every bone. That was a teenager, turned into a middle-aged corpse. 

They still have their faces, mouths frozen in the final howl. My mind freezes. I am trying not to breathe this in. A man touches the dead meat that was the brother he loved. I turn my head but the nightmare is everywhere. Burying their mouths in their arms, the family are pushing for the exit, heads craned forward to get that extra inch away. We are trying not to vomit. These are the last 13 unidentified victims of Bakiyev's order to fire into the crowds. 


Freedom or death: Youthful victims of the revolution 

"We waited for days and he didn't come back, we saw him on the TV." 

The metal door of the morgue slams shut. Like drowning men grasping for a plank of wood, they are mouthing words of prayer. So am I. 

"They fired on the people, Bakiyev's men fired on the people. He must be tried in a people's court." 

Chainsmoking cannot get the taste out of my mouth. Trying to swill it away with bottles of Coca-Cola or fizzy water doesn't work. Death has knotted itself into every crevice of my clothes and into every pore. I have to throw away my trousers and buy a fake Puma tracksuit from the nearest bazaar. I try and distance myself from the consequences of revolution, the piles of bodies. As Mao said: "A revolution is not a dinner party, not an essay, nor a painting, nor a piece of embroidery." 

Bakiyev has fled to his heartland in southern Kyrgyzstan, a strictly Islamic and agrarian part of this mountainous realm, traditionally hostile to the Russified industrial north. The threat of civil war looms. The new authorities in Bishkek do not yet control the night. I have set out after the fugitive president. My Russian driver shakes his head. "It didn't have to happen this way. It didn't have to be so violent." We are leaving a city that has become a free-trade zone for score-settling, mobsters and theft. "Before this, people were leaving to work in Russia, now I am drawing up plans to go." 

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