The Dictator and First Lady have been deposed.

A 23 year reign cut down in a deftly executed military coup that stormed the National Palace at 3.17pm this afternoon - and now holds them in the Great Room, where the leader and his wife had been coiffed, scented and suited in preparation for a televised address to the nation. One intended to be in equal parts self-assured and subtly threatening, a firm **** you and we'll find you to those they felt had needed to hear it most.
They are shaken. Not to the point of tears, neither possess the unrestrained emotional triggers that produce tears publicly anymore - tears, happy or otherwise, were something both quickly understood in the early days of their power to be dangerously undermining - but their bodies are vibrating with incandescent rage and acid-reflux inducing confusion. They listen to the generals that address them with dead-eyed expressions, while internally - and discreetly - sucking back down the sour jets of liquid that propel upwards into their throats.

They are told they will still make a speech, a surrender. They will be exiled - and they ought to be grateful for it too, a general chides, it is only because international eyes are on this 'power transfer' that they are not already laying decapitated in litres of their own blood. They will be escorted to an airfield, taking nothing from the National Palace. What happens after that is not the country's business. They will probably have to fly into other national airspaces and organise some sort of communication with the ground, begging for entry, before fuel runs out.

***
In the First Lady's domestic wing - four levels above - there is carnage. Her chambermaids sweep anything accessible into outstretched aprons and pillowcases.

They are hoping for jewellery and diaries - but what can be found will do. Perfume bottles make a cacophony of noise - some cracking - as maids rake them into the material they will use to carry them out through the back of the National Palace and into waiting trucks as they leave under army escort.
Used lipstick, small paintings, overturned shoeboxes - these women, terrified as they are, are delirious with opportunity. In the madness and dysfunction of it all - despite orders to be up and out of the building - many have sudden epiphanies as to where this or that object might be found and dash there, slamming into or caterwauling off another who runs or strides in her own direction North, East, South or West. There is too much wealth here, too much power not to leave with something significant. The soldiers should be stepping in - but this energy is infectious, these circumstances too ripe, and many are watching to see who is producing what from where - whether it can be beaten or wrestled out of her hands for themselves.

The hardiest of these women finds something and kicks, screams or spits her way to the stairs - pulling her hair or collar out of a soldier or another maid's grip - once you exit the rooms into the corridors you are fine, the many armed soldiers lined up on either side of walls there are most certainly desperate with curiosity, but cannot break their formation and risk punishment or demotion later.

So, with scratches and bruising - perhaps torn uniforms - and whatever they have pinned to their chests under both arms, the women exit and pile into transportation. A new country, a new order. Chests heaving, bodies perspiring like broken dams. They will not double check what they have until they leave the vehicles, wherever that may be - they do not run the risk of drawing attention to themselves.

As for their former employers, they are not aware of what will happen to them, but all would perhaps prefer they are killed. If they are dead there can be no repercussions for this episode.

The engines start. Some women sink back in their chairs, sweep limp hair to the side of their foreheads. Maybe close their eyes, or - still in a state of mania - smile.

Copyright Yafeu-Khamisi Rodway-Brown