The Woeful Tale of Sir Banana

by Rachael K. Jones

Suppose you’re a trucker, like myself. A space trucker, as my little niece Tilly likes to say, although technically I’m just a garden-variety cargo ship pilot. She’s still at the age where anything huge whizzing past the window makes her practically tear down the curtains to get to it. She’s got such a big collection of toy trucks, her dad—my big brother—sacrificed the hallway closet to hide the spillover. When I visit Tilly on the Moon, we point at the stars together, my hand over hers, and we trace the shining arc of ships burning through low orbit.

“That’s Uncle Danny,” I tell her, muttering into her feathery black hair. “That’s me when I’m hauling.” When she asks what hauling means, I say, “Space trucking. Flying stuff between here and Earth, so your dad can buy it at the grocery store.”

“Like pudding,” says Tilly.


Are you still with me? Do you find that believable so far? Well, what if something went wrong on my latest trip from Earth, and I’m stranded in orbit with only zero-calorie energy drinks to starve upon while I wait for a rescue that’s much too late in coming, days on days while the waste piles up in the cargo hold and the inter-ship band chants its own name into the void? And what if I suck at fixing stuff, whatever I told Tilly? What if Uncle Danny can drive his space-trucks, but when the power flickers, I open up hatches at random and tug a wire here, a panel there, until something clunks ominously and the main power fizzles out for good, leaving me bathed in the dull blue emergency power and bouncy low-energy gravity, and nothing to do but talk to myself while I wait for rescue?

If you’ve bought all of that, then maybe it’s time for the tale of Sir Banana. Maybe I’ll tell the one about, I dunno, the Pudding Queen, and the Fruit Kingdom, and how it was saved from the clutches of the dastardly Sir Milk.

Yes, milk would have to be the villain, since the fridge died and the whole carton went bad. But now that I’m starving to death, do you think I regret not chugging that bastard down to the last drop?

You betcha.

So let’s begin. Sir Banana, faithful and true, set out for the Pudding Queen’s castle in search of new adventures. His coat was a fine green, shot through with yellow, bright as springtime, and his arm strong as wood. As he rode, the Voice of God spoke to him from above. “Sir Banana, faithful and true, I have chosen you to be the salvation of the entire Fruit Kingdom, if you will obey my words.”

Sir Banana, you see, was a pious banana, and never one to neglect his prayers. There’s one way he and I differ. I grew up Methodist, but only lately started praying again—right around the time the power went out, coincidentally.

“Lord,” said Sir Banana, “I am but a humble banana, and the greenest of my bunch. But if you think I am worthy to be your instrument, I will do what you ask of me.”

And so the Voice of God told him, “Take up your sword, Sir Banana, and slay Sir Milk, for he has soured on his own pride, and even now plots treachery against your beloved Queen.”

Sir Banana was puzzled by this formulation, and not just because I’m making this up as I go along. You see, Sir Milk was Sir Banana’s beloved mentor. Sir Banana had learned knightcraft at Sir Milk’s knee since the day he had been severed from his bunch. It grieved Sir Banana mightily that the Voice of God had asked such a thing of him.

“O Lord,” Sir Banana said, in great anguish and turmoil, “if this is what you would ask of me, I will trust your commands. But I would that you asked something else.”

But the Voice of God did not reply, and so Sir Banana surmised that his quest remained unchanged. In truth, the Voice of God had swigged down another zero-calorie energy drink from the cargo hold and gone to bed, only to spend another four or five hours lying awake, heart racing, wishing he had something without caffeine to drink, and cursing his own Voice of God, who had put him in such a circumstance and not bothered to speak to him about it.

Our story doesn’t resume until past 0800 Earth Standard time, because it’s hard to make proper accounts of heroic deeds when you’re curled up sobbing in your sleeping bag, wishing you hadn’t chosen this trip to cut back on the junk food, and that you had more than a slowly decomposing fruit basket to tide you over until your inevitable rescue.

Sir Banana, in the meantime, had gotten back to the Pudding Queen’s palace, but the slaughter had already begun. The grape-pages in their cheery green frocks lay gutted and sucked dry at the gates, and all that remained of the strawberry-maids were their leafy scalps. Sir Banana charged for the throne room, blinded by tears, praying that Sir Milk had not yet reached the Queen, that all hope was not yet lost.

The Pudding Queen, fortunately, had never been the defenseless sort. She had trained in knightcraft in her youth, and wore her own sword, because this story is for Tilly and she deserves role models. She had barricaded herself into the throne room with her bodyguards, which were, let’s say, blackberries with ninja skills. Sir Banana came upon Sir Milk and his minions outside the door, fashioning a battering ram from a partially dismantled feasting table.

“Sir Milk,” Sir Banana growled, drawing his sword, “What madness is this?”

Sir Milk had changed from the knight Sir Banana remembered. His eyes sagged, and his white livery had crusted around the edges, and he had begun oozing from every crack and crevice. Sir Milk grinned. A rancid froth bubbled over his lips. “Haven’t you heard?” The old knight spat the foam upon the floor, where it held its shape, and writhed minutely. “God is hungry. If we do not slake His appetite, He will consume us all.”

Sir Banana knew then that the Voice of God had spoken truly. “Sir Milk,” said the good banana, “you have lost the way of righteousness, and I mourn for you. It is not too late to repent of your ways. Throw down your weapons, and even now you might be redeemed.”

Yes, I realize Sir Banana sounds pretentious, but go with it. Lawful Good types are all the same, much like bananas.

Sir Milk’s laughter turned into wracking coughs, and more foam bubbled over his armor. “Nay, Sir Banana, I mourn for you. For you have not yet begun to learn your hardest lesson, and in the days ahead you will have to reckon with the truth.”

At this, Sir Banana knew that Sir Milk was truly gone. He raised his sword and charged at the corrupted knight.

The battle that ensued was messy, to put it lightly. Sir Banana came through with just a couple of dents, nothing serious. I tried to clean up the milk spills afterwards, but some of it must’ve leaked between the floor panels, because the whole ship reeks of Sir Milk now. Anyway, Sir Banana got his kill, and I ate all the grapes and strawberries, so we both came out ahead.

This isn’t going to pan out if I keep losing characters at this rate, not to mention the ones I’m eating between scenes. I had to skip the whole interlude with the papaya. But we haven’t heard the last of Sir Banana, don’t you worry. I just have to rehydrate, try the emergency signal again, curse God, and get some sleep.

If the energy drinks will let me sleep, that is. I’m glad to have a near-infinite supply of liquid, but I wish it were just apple juice. I haven’t lived on this much caffeine since pilot school, and never on an empty stomach. Perhaps the energy drinks will burn a hole through my stomach. Perhaps they’ll burn a hole through the universe. After three nights without sleep, you start to hallucinate, and I’m almost there.

Maybe I’ll finally get some damn answers to my prayers. You hear me, God? I’m coming for you, you hungry bastard.

Shall we return to Sir Banana? Tilly would love him. She’d want to hold the Pudding Queen during the scary parts. She’d make me promise that it ends okay.

So for Tilly’s sake, I promise you this much: this story will have a happy ending for at least one of the characters. I just don’t know which one.

Sir Banana’s troubles didn’t end with the slaying of Sir Milk, because even though the evil henchfruits were scattered, Sir Banana didn’t understand what had caused Sir Milk’s corruption to begin with. And while there was peace for a time in the Pudding Queen’s castle, rumors began to filter in that the corruption hadn’t just been contained to Sir Milk’s uprising.

And so the Voice of God came again upon Sir Banana, saying, “Sir Banana, faithful and true, take up your sword and ride to Lady Orange’s keep, and root out the corruption you will find there. For Lady Orange has drunk of the teachings of Sir Milk, and become furred over with sin, and if her wrongdoing is not contained, it will spread for certain throughout the Fruit Kingdom.”

This saddened Sir Banana even more grievously than God’s command to kill Sir Milk, for Lady Orange ruled the fiefdom where Sir Banana had grown up, and he had often visited her keep for festivals in his youth. It had been Lady Orange who had plucked him from his bunch upon the strength of his potential so long ago.

But Sir Banana was a pious banana, faithful and true, and the Voice of God had never steered him wrong. So he said, “O Lord, your commandments weigh heavy upon me, but if this is the adventure you have sent me, I will take up my sword and follow it to its end.”

The Voice of God did not answer, so Sir Banana assumed his quest was set. In truth, the Voice of God was clutching both sides of the ship’s toilet and puking up bright blue goo, his arms shivering uncontrollably, wondering if he was running a fever. But Sir Banana didn’t know this, so he rode out from the Pudding Queen’s castle. His armor shone pure gold, smattered with just a few brown age spots.

At this point, I think Sir Banana deserves more of a backstory, since we’re riding through his hometown and all. Maybe there were two other siblings in his bunch. Maybe one of them still lived on Earth, and the other had joined the military and gotten himself posted to the Moon along with his husband and daughter Tilly. Maybe that’s why Sir Banana chose the itinerant life, always between places, never part of one, just the vast empty void spangled with stars. I bet he loves his family quite a lot, far more than they realize, even if he’s always missing birthdays and anniversaries and whatever’s equivalent to Christmas if you’re a fruit.

So when Sir Banana got to Lady Orange’s keep, his heart was full of all those treasured old times with his bunchmates, the games they used to play swinging into the moat on a hot summer’s day, and how they’d dare one another to sneak into the kitchens for a snitch of sweetcake when the cook’s back was turned. And so you can imagine his devastation when he reached the door and found the old Cook herself, a large round mature orange, slumped over while blue fuzz crawled up a giant bruise on her temple.

“Cook! Oh, Cook!” Sir Banana fell to his knees and cradled the dying orange. Sticky juice trickled from her wounds and stained his livery where she touched him.

“Is that you, Small Banana? All grown up! But I fear you have come too late.” Cook coughed, and something white fizzed from her mouth. It reeked of Sir Milk. “You will find nothing but corruption in the keep. For four days now, it has spread among all the oranges, and the retainers too.”

“And what of my bunchmates?” Sir Banana asked, a bit selfishly, but you can’t blame the guy. “Are Plantain and Big Nana alright? Did they get out in time?”

But Cook’s eyes had lolled back and closed. Sir Banana wept. So did the Voice of God, because he had been saving that orange, and hadn’t noticed the mold until it was too late.

Sir Banana charged into the keep to rescue any survivors. Unfortunately, I nodded off for a split second, and missed some of the action. I’d planned this epic battle between Sir Banana and a hammer-swinging plum, but I accidentally ate the plum before he got there, so we can skip right to the part where Sir Banana sobs over the empty peel of his sister, Big Nana.

You see, whatever corruption that had struck down the noble House of Orange had indeed spread thoroughly to the whole bag, the blue-green mold crawling thick in the shadows where it was hidden from sight long enough to infest every nook and cranny.

This is also an accurate description of what I found in the bottom of the fruit basket this morning, but I’m trying not to think about that.

At long last, Lady Orange rose from her bedchamber, dressed all in blue-green and crowned with a halo of white mold. “Sir Banana,” she said, “this display of emotion is unknightly, and does not become you.”

“Please, Lady,” Sir Banana sobbed, “do not deny me my grief. For I loved my sister, and I am deathly afraid of what has become of my brother Plantain.”

“Peace, little one. Time has run out for your brother. His peel lies in the room beyond. There is time yet to change your own fate,” she continued. “You are golden, in your prime, ripe for the plucking. If you turn away from the Voice of God now, and cover yourself in my mantle, even now you could be spared. For God is hungry, and He comes for all in the end, save for those too foul to pass His lips.”

Sir Banana’s stomach turned at this monologue, and so did the Voice of God’s, who had to take a quick swig of the energy drink to keep the plum down. “You have lost your mind, Lady Orange,” Sir Banana said. “What pulled you off the path of righteousness?”

“Sir Milk spoke the truth,” Lady Orange said sadly. “God will come for us all in the end. But we can choose the order.”

She toasted Sir Banana with a mold-covered chalice, and only then did he perceive its true wooden shape. It was a banana’s stem, torn off from the peel. And so he knew his bunchmates were indeed gone from this life, and a red madness descended over his vision, and he charged the Lady Orange. His blade sank into her bulk all the way to the hilt, and Sir Banana had to let go, lest the thick mold creep up and touch him, too. But though he had fulfilled the Voice of God’s command, the worst was still ahead, because the corruption had already spread much farther than Lady Orange.

We’ll leave the Fruit Kingdom there and give them a chance to bury their dead while I sort the moldy blueberries from the okay ones. Sure, it’s not my best work, but I haven’t slept in four days, and I’m running out of fruit, so give me a break. And I’ve got bigger problems now, because the shaking isn’t just from caffeine, and the sore throat isn’t just from puking. Leave it to me to get strep throat on a space ship.

First aid kit? Sure, there’s band-aids and aspirin and two little bottles of cough syrup I swigged down on Day Two, hoping for a buzz, but they don’t stock penicillin for routine cargo hauls.

You know the level of tired when you start forgetting whether you’re awake or asleep? The radios crackle on, and by the time I drag myself over to the comm station, they’ve all gone dead again. So either the rescue is underway, or I’ve really lost the plot. Tilly comes to visit me. She sits at the edge of my bunk with the Pudding Queen in one hand, begging me to finish the story, because she wants to know if Sir Banana will be alright in the end, if it ends happy like I promised. I keep waiting for God to turn up, but that’s the one Voice that keeps to itself.

I have questions for Him. I have so many questions. For example, which character would God want me to spare? Or is He even more bloodthirsty than me?

So let’s swig down the blue stuff that’s killing or saving me, and let’s finish with Sir Banana once and for all, so we can finally pick a survivor.

Sir Banana, old and weary, rode through a kingdom bereft of its fruit. His livery was an aged brown and running to black, and his arm sapped of youthful strength, but his heart was stalwart and strong. He rode east to west, north to south, stopping in at familiar hamlets and friendly keeps and grand cathedrals. But everywhere he rode, he found only devastation. Where the peaches lived, he found only pits coated in soft mold. The apples lay dead and stripped to the core, and all that remained of the mighty Pineapple was her golden scale armor and spiked helm.

But Sir Banana was a pious banana, so he begged the Voice of God for an answer. “What has happened, O Lord? Where are my people? And where is the Pudding Queen?”

But the Voice of God did not answer, and Sir Banana did not know why. In truth, the Voice of God was having a very lively debate over whether it’s talking to yourself if you’re holding a brown banana to your ear, or just another form of prayer.

At last, he came to a strange green chapel set deep in the heart of a cool, green dell. And Sir Banana thought to himself, “This looks like a holy place to seek the Voice of God by way of vigil.” But as he reached for the door, it opened of its own accord. A young knight with flowing brown hair stood before him, someone he knew well, for he loved her above all else in the world. Immortally young, yet old beyond the span given to fruit. God’s chosen ruler: the Pudding Queen. And for the first time since the Voice of God spoke to him, Sir Banana was glad.

“You’ve come at last,” said the Pudding Queen warmly. “Faithful and true to the end.” She threw her arms around him. Her hands and livery were sticky with juice. He flinched back involuntarily.

“Are you well?” asked the Pudding Queen, searching his face with concern in her eyes. “Come inside, Sir Banana. You must be exhausted from your journey.”

She led him into the cool of the chapel, which after the bright daylight was dark and disheveled, like no one had used it in many years. The whole place reeked of sticky-sweet death.

“My Queen,” said Sir Banana, “this place has an evil sense about it. Let us leave at once.”

“Nay, Sir Banana, for the Voice of God bade me come here,” said the Pudding Queen. And as she spoke, his eyes adjusted to the dim. The debris was not old tree branches or furniture as he had guessed, but eviscerated bodies of pears, and plums, and persimmons, and kiwis—all the subjects of the Fruit Kingdom. And their Queen walked him toward the altar, where her sword leaned in a shaft of light, sticky with many juices and touched with blue-green fuzz.

“Sir Banana,” the Queen asked, “why do you hesitate?”

“I am afraid, Milady,” said Sir Banana. “I am afraid of what has killed my comrades. I am afraid it was you.”

“You swore obedience to Queen and God, Sir Banana. Now come and face the adventure we have prepared for you.” She pulled him toward the altar. Her hands dripped gore upon the floor. A sour smell swathed her like a cloak.

“Milady,” he ventured, “what did Sir Milk do to you?”

Her hands clenched and unclenched, juice sticking the fingers together. “I did not know the meaning of the plague. I did not know why my subjects brought tales of madness in the wild, of fruits drained of their juices, and the blue mold spreading everywhere. But Sir Milk did. He knew. God will eat until He is sated.”

Sir Banana’s hand found the hilt of his sword. “Sir Milk was not to be trusted, Milady.”

“Sir Milk heard the Voice of God, you know,” answered the Pudding Queen. “But when he came to God, something went wrong. God could not take Sir Milk, because the evil festering in Sir Milk’s heart protected him. God only eats the pure.” She hefted her sword and ran the sticky blade down the altar cloth, scraping it clean of gore and mold. “If He judges us and finds us wanting, we can live forever.”

It was then that Sir Banana knew Sir Milk had not been the source of the corruption after all.

She sprang upon the terrified knight with the full brunt of her young strength. Gouges opened in his brown livery, exposing the white flesh beneath his skin. Such pain no enemy had ever inflicted upon Sir Banana. He cried out. He grabbed her wrist with his shield hand and forced her sword away, but she bent and twisted like a green sapling.

And then the Voice of God spoke to him at last.

“Sir Banana,” said the Voice of God, “deliver unto Me the Pudding Queen’s life, and you shall fulfill your fate and save the Fruit Kingdom from corruption.”

Automatically, he raised his sword to obey, but he hesitated. It was the same sword with which the Pudding Queen had knighted him in the bloom of his youth. Sir Banana’s heart ached, for he was a faithful banana, true to his oaths, true to his Queen. And so, for the first time, Sir Banana argued back.

“My God,” he said, “how can I lift my sword against she who gave it to me?”

“Sir Banana,” said the Voice of God, “deliver unto Me the Pudding Queen’s life, and fulfill your destiny.”

“Won’t you answer me, O Lord, after all this time?”

“Sir Banana,” said the Voice of God, “deliver unto Me the Pudding Queen’s life, and fulfill your vow.”

With a great wrenching thrust that snapped the withered twig of his left arm, the knight threw down his sword. “O Voice of God, I cannot kill my beloved Queen. Please have mercy upon her. Cure her madness and take me instead. Or let me die.” He knelt and bowed his head, prepared to receive his punishment.

The Voice of God paused in thought. The story hung just like that, the pudding cup wedged between the red blinking commlink light and the battered black banana threaded through the ignition handle. The chunky old milk carton stayed in the useless fridge, but by this point you could smell it everywhere. The Voice of God shivered, coughed hard, and mopped dripping sweat from his temple with a damp sleeve. The Voice of God downed another blue energy drink that could no longer stave off starvation. God was hungry, and God was lonely, and God did not want to eat his only friend.

Are you with me? Are you still listening? Well, take courage. This story has survivors. Let’s learn their names together.

The Pudding Queen woke to an empty kingdom. There were only the corpses of her retainers rotting on the floor, and the Voice of God, who was sitting on the steps beside her. He wasn’t anything like she’d pictured him, not ruddy and round like a perfect grapefruit. He didn’t look like a person at all, and He smelled sour, like He’d been keeping company with the dead. In one hand He still held the blackened, shriveled wooden stump which was Sir Banana’s arm.

“Go ahead. Ask me,” said the Voice of God. “It’s okay.”

There was only one question she had for God. It’s the same question everyone has for God. “Why?”

“Because I was starving to death,” said the Voice of God. “But please believe me: I loved Sir Banana. He did everything I asked of him. I thought, at the very least, I could do the one thing he ever asked of me.”

“And what did he ask?”

God picked her up, and turned her around in His hands, which were warm and soft. “He wanted me to spare you. And he’s right. You remind me of someone I know.”

“So you ate him?”

God nodded, but it was an apologetic nod. “I’m sorry.”

The Pudding Queen didn’t say anything, because there was nothing left to say. Not all stories ended happily. In fact, most stories didn’t, if you followed them long enough. But God was sad, and so was she, and there was a strange comfort just sitting there together—they who had enjoyed Sir Banana’s unbroken devotion until the end, they who perhaps hadn’t deserved it—and mourning for the dead.

Was that the ending you expected? Well, try on another: say I’ve been stranded in orbit for a week now, and death’s just tossing the dice to decide which way I should go. If it should be the hunger, the fever, or the sleep deprivation that gets me first. And I’ve just eaten the banana that staved off the loneliness, so now that’s a fourth option.

“Well, fuck it,” I say, and begin to eat the corpses.

Under most circumstances, you shouldn’t eat mold, of course. Maybe you’ll luck out and get penicillin, but more likely you’ll just get ergot poisoning. But I’m out of options. And anyway, if you can gross out God enough, sometimes that asshole passes you over.

There’s a whole lot of blue mold to get through. It completely hollowed out several oranges, and it’s working through the blueberries you discarded earlier. Tuck in. Go to town on that shit. Lick out the waste bin while you’re at it. Suck up all the corruption back where it came from. Save the Fruit Kingdom from yourself.

Don’t drink any of the blue stuff, though.

Are you full now? Sick to your stomach? Talking to yourself in the second person? Well, let’s get some sleep. Let’s queue up all the questions we have for God, in case we die in the morning, in case we go to heaven, in case He finally shows His face.

Then sleep. Sleep deeply and peacefully, the best sleep of your life, no dreams, no fever, no caffeine.

And the Voice of God finally speaks in a dream.

“About time, you asshole,” I tell Them.

“Sorry,” They say. “I was running late. Go ahead and ask your questions.”

“Are you hungry? Are you lonely? Do you play with your food? Is that why we die?” God tries to speak, but before I let Them get in a word edgewise, I plow forward, “Are you a banana? A queen? A little girl? Are you telling my story, or are you the one I’m telling it to? And what about all those zero-calorie energy drinks? Was that supposed to be a joke?”

God holds up a hand. “Hold up. I’m glad you asked. There’s a very simple answer that’ll satisfy all your questions. The truth is—”

Before God can answer, someone starts cutting open the airlock, which wakes me straight up. So that bastard got off the hook again in the end.

But then again, so did I, and sometimes that’s the best ending you get. One of the characters lives. No slaying the villain, no answers from above, no old banana gracefully browning into retirement. Just Uncle Danny trying to put a fine point on it, because Tilly looks up at me like I’m the veritable Voice of God, and she will have questions, and she won’t let me off the hook so easily.

So I let it all go in the end, leave it behind on my space truck, along with the hallucinations and the weird stories I told myself to keep myself alive, pocket my uncertainties, hold my fragile faith in an open hand, and never drink another drop of energy drink as long as I live.

I take the pudding cup with me when I go, though. After all, I promised.

Rachael K. Jones grew up in various cities across Europe and North America, picked up (and mostly forgot) six languages, and acquired several degrees in the arts and sciences. Now she writes speculative fiction in Portland, Oregon. Her debut novella, Every River Runs to Salt, is available from Fireside Fiction. Contrary to the rumors, she is probably not a secret android. Rachael is a World Fantasy Award nominee and Tiptree Award honoree. Her fiction has appeared in dozens of venues worldwide, including Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, and all four Escape Artists podcasts. Follow her on Twitter @RachaelKJones.

Of “Sir Banana”, she says: “This story took six years to write. I first attempted it back in 2014. When I couldn’t make the ideas of a space-trucker-knightly-banana-theological-parable quite work, I put aside the fragmentary draft and let it be. Then just last year, I realized the story demanded greater risk-taking and innovation in its voice to make the science fiction and fantasy components mesh the way they needed to. I rewrote the whole story in under a week, keeping exactly one scene from the original. What you see is the final result.

“I could probably talk forever about all the ideas and themes that went into ‘Sir Banana.’ I’ll say here that for me, this story is about Mystery, and the lifetime quest to understand the Divine, no matter what form it takes.”

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