Ku-Rivalle stank like only a town populated by Mounts could. Thankfully there was no law against covering your face. Even though we were stained with sweat, all three of us kept our hoods up and mouthguards closed. I tried not to gawk but I had never seen so many Mounts. Only a few of them, perhaps one in ten, had Riders. It made me sick. Were these traitorous volunteers? Or were they victims. There was no way to tell.

A Mount with rider approached us, an opaque pink pustule where the man’s nose used to be. Every mount had their noses removed for ease of connection with the alien parasites.

“Your clothes. Announce. Your strangeness.” He said in the peculiar cadence of the Mounted. Maybe it had to do with the way Rider and Mount breathed together, through the mouth.

“Just passing through.” I replied, easing my plaid up so he could see the blue tattoo of geometric figures that began at mid-foream and trailed up into my palm.

The red ring around his pupils spun as he read my tattoos. “Come. With me. Human.”

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