Facing the catastrophic disintegration of society, people do some weird things. I don’t mean trapping and eating rodents for food, that happens any time supplies run low. Nor do I mean banding together in pack-like groups for self-defense—that makes sense from a basic needs standpoint. In this case I’m talking about what seems to be an almost cultish obsession with hanging bits of glass and mirrors, tied together with caution tape, from every raised surface. Israel and I first saw them on our initial forays into the Outcasts’ territory, but didn’t remark much because maybe some kid just wanted an art project to pass the time. As we moved deeper into hostile areas of the city, however, it was easy to see which areas were controlled by the Outcasts, because their reflective markers seemed to be everywhere.

Light is a very precious resource in a metropolis without power, and while it seems that many of the hostiles roaming the streets had gathered flashlights in order to help them prowl the dark nighttime alleys, often the snipers among them wouldn’t remember to turn them off before trying to line up a shot. In our experience, if we saw a flashlight pointed at us from a raised position, it was time to dive for cover. Scouting through Outcast neighborhoods, we often found ourselves taking positions against an opponent who wasn’t there—those reflective decorations had caught some other light and shined it just the right way that we thought it a sniper taking aim.

Caution tape and broken mirrors—neither of us could figure out what kind of significance, symbolic or otherwise, the combination could hold. Maybe they were just distractions, keeping us on-edge. Maybe they would clang together if disturbed by a passing body. Maybe they represented some sort of religious belief. Whatever the case, neither of us liked them very much—they seemed like arcane symbols or totems erected to forgotten gods of modern civilization, looking down at us as we trespassed on their territory. Maybe I was putting too much thought into them, it was hard to say for sure.

What I do know is that things started getting hot and heavy as we pushed closer to Roosevelt Island. Details from the higher-ups were sketchy, but we got the impression that it was used as a combination isolation zone and chemical test facility, where they quarantined people thought to be infected by Green Poison and worked on treatments for the same. Apparently not everyone who was relocated to the island was happy with the arrangement, or happy with the tests they doubtlessly underwent. Thus, the leadership of the Outcasts were born and when DC fell, they started collecting like-minded (or like-poisoned as the case may be) brutes and thugs.

We hoped that by toppling the leadership, and maybe a few of their creepy caution tape reflectors, we would be able to destabilize the gang and make the eastern part of the city easier for the local resistance movement to take back.

Header image by Kat Wilcox, provided for reuse.