Man In A Bubble...A short dystopian fiction

by Capt. William E. Simpson II

It was August 15th, 2025 according to the date on the dingy soot-stained newspaper that sat in my lap along with the journal I was keeping of the events. The newspaper headline read, “U.S. Economy Collapses Under Wildfire-Healthcare Costs - U.S. Congress Declares Martial Law.”

I gazed at the austere sights outside through the smoke-stained poly-window from my seat inside the FEMA smoke shelter. A police vehicle's siren glared as it raced down the street. Not far away, a garbage truck veiled in the dense smoke loaded body bags into the back.

Like so many others, my life had been reduced to that of a man confined to living inside a gruesome bubble.

The green oxygen-producing forests that had once adorned our local hills and mountains had virtually all been reduced to ash during the great wildfires of 2020 and 2021. The grass and brush that quickly took-over after all the logging seemed to burn with even greater fury, darkening the sky with toxic soot and gases. It was as if it were nature's punishment for our poor stewardship of her forests and wildlife. It seemed that greed and ignorance seasoned with a little fear had led forestry down an 'all or nothing' path after the ‘big idea’ of 'thinning forests' failed to stop catastrophic wildfires.

Men in their arrogance had forgotten the vital evolutionary role that wildlife had played in our forests over millennia in preventing the evolution of catastrophic wildfire. And, the mismanagement of wildlife had led to a severe deletion of the large grass and brush eating herbivores, and our now bleak future. The calls of elk in the deep forests and whinnies of free roaming wild horses had been silenced by ignorance, ego and greed.

Using the well-practiced government management model of too-little too-late, FEMA reconditioned hundreds of plastic flu quarantine tents they had stored into smoke shelters, and distributed them primarily in the western states. They filled them with cots and a few folding chairs. Off one end and sealed to the tents were portable toilets. Bottled water and rations were distributed along with iron pills twice a day.

Occasionally, a few old magazines and the now weekly newspaper were included, and carrying the dire news. The travesty of catastrophic wildfire management had devastated the U.S. economy from the inside.

Months-long evacuations, deaths, illness, and dislocation of millions of people from local and regional work-forces had an effect on industries that eclipsed anything anticipated by local, state, or federal governments. People had relied upon legislators and officials who had bloviated their solutions. Unfortunately, their solutions were largely based-upon influences from entities with less than optimal motives. And now, the very steep price was being paid by average hard-working citizens, who, unlike the wealthy and privileged politicians, could not escape to their second homes in remote fire and smoke-free areas.

Local and state government officials had no idea that 95% of wildfire-affected populations would find themselves in dire-straits as the great catastrophic wildfires of 2020 and 2021 pumped-out millions of tons of deadly carbon monoxide gas along with hundreds of millions of tons of deadly particulates, including insidious nanoparticles.

Few people had the financial capacity, or lived-in properly designed modern homes, with the ability to integrate expensive particulate and carbon monoxide scrubbers with optional oxygen-injection. Many people simply became ill, while others died a slow death in their homes; many of them not even fully understanding why they were sick, as hundreds of thousands of others scrambled to the lottery for available seats in the limited smoke shelters.

The odor of too many people crammed together in a big plastic tent just seems to worsen. This morning I was awakened by the crying and intermittent coughing of a little boy a few feet away. His mother had passed-away sometime during the night. I had learned that women have less red blood cells than men so they are more susceptible to carbon-monoxide poisoning. Our tent, which housed about 100-souls, had some sort of equipment failure during the night. Either the carbon monoxide scrubber or oxygen injection went off-line. Many people, myself included, were suffering the initial effects; fatigue, headaches and dizziness.

I helplessly looked on as two workers wearing full hazmat suits placed the women's body into a black plastic bag and zipped-it-up so matter of factly, without any regard for the emotionally distraught child nearby watching in horror. Just two months before, I would have looked away. But now, I had steeled myself to document every detail as hopeful lessons for any surviving future generations. But now, it seems… oddly, I am… I am having some difficulty holding onto my pencil…  

The End.

William Simpson is the author of Dark Stallions – Legend of the Centaurians, proceeds from which go towards supporting wild and domestic horse rescue and sanctuary.

Capt. William E. Simpson II is a U.S. Merchant Marine Officer with decades of boating and expedition sailing experience, having logged more than 150,000 miles at sea. Simpson has successfully survived long-term ‘off the grid’ at sea and at remote uninhabited desert islands with his family for years at a time. He holds a U.S.C.G. 500-ton captain’s license for commercial-inspected passenger vessels and he is also a commercial airplane and helicopter pilot.

Simpson spent his formative years growing up on the family’s working ranch in the mountains of Southern Oregon, where horses were an integral part of the daily life. William left the family ranch to attend college, which turned out to be a stepping stone into a bizarre lifestyle that led him around the world on an entrepreneurial quest. An adventurer at heart, Simpson and his best friend and wife Laura, spent many years at sea during two sailing expeditions (1991-1994 and 2008-2011) where they experienced some of the many wonders and mysteries of nature. Since retiring, Bill and Laura have changed lifestyles and are once again engaged in a new adventure; living an off-grid lifestyle in the remote wilderness of the Siskiyou Mountains, where they enjoy coexisting with herds of wild horses, along with a myriad of other wild animals. The staggering beauty of the local mountains and valleys is awe inspiring and has influenced Bill to frequently write on subjects related to wild horses as well as wild and domestic horse advocacy, rescue and sanctuary.