Continuing the author spotlight series, we pick up with A Darke Phantastique contributor Gene O’Neill.
His story, “Transformations at the Inn of the Golden Pheasant” starts with:
In the late afternoon the Marine Recon patrol was returning to their firebase, Fiddler’s Green, cutting directly through a known Taliban stronghold in the center of Helmand Province. They were riding along confidently in two of the new, almost indestructible Maxx Pro armored vehicles. Both conveyances slowed, as an old man, standing about fifty yards from the side of the road, signaled his distress and gestured for help. He was pointing at what appeared to be a bundled-up child, lying dead still. The heavily armored vehicles stopped. Two Marines from the lead vehicle dismounted and made their way cautiously across the road, M27 automatic weapons held in ready against their chests. Keeping a staggered distance a few yards apart, Lance Corporal Cecil Owens and PFC Lucas McKane each left the road, venturing a few feet into the field, heading for the old man and apparent infant in distress—
A metallic, deafening boom . . .
And the two best friends were blown twenty-five yards apart by the IED blast, Big O dying on the spot.
But Luke survived, despite suffering a fractured skull, deep facial and chest lacerations, a ruptured spleen, a broken tibia, and eventually a diagnosis of Traumatic Brain Injury—TBI.”
He says of the story:
“Not long ago, soldiers didn’t survive severe head trauma during combat. They bled out on the battlefield. Now, with the advances in military medicine and speedy evacuations to field hospitals, wounded soldiers are surviving these types of injuries. Many are returning home, but saddled with the side effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Very little research has been done other than a general awareness of some of the more bizarre prolonged symptoms, including wounded vets suffering from hallucinatory and delusional behavior. “Transformations at the Inn of the Golden Pheasant” focuses on a TBI patient recently released from a VA hospital and coping with civilian life.”
Gene O’Neill has seen five of his novels published along with 125 short stories and novellas. He has been a Bram Stoker Award finalist nine times, taking home two houses. He is currently putting the finishing touches on a novel, The White Plague, and a novella, At the Lazy K.