The Star Zoo
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| 1 You must marry me
Nothing ever happens on Just Like Home—that's the name of the planet I live on．I get so bored！
But tonight was Remembering Night and that's exciting．There's the big fire where everybody must put on something that they love and watch it burn．Then there's the dancing round the fire．
But what I like best about Remembering Night are the clothes．We usually wear what we like on Just Like Home—but the clothes must have the name of our name-animal on them．For example，I always have the word'Hummingbird'on my clothes，which means my name is Hummingbird—Hummy for short．
Nobody knows what a hummingbird looks like，but we know what birds are．Birds are animals that fly．The Book of Remembering tells us that．
I don't always believe what the Book of Remembering says．
Nobody knows who you are on Remembering Night because you wear black clothes that cover you from head to foot，and there is no name of your name-animal．You can only see people's eyes looking out of the eye-holes in the clothes．
It was dark outside．The only light came from the big fire．I beld my father's hand at first and we danced together．My mother danced away and I couldn't see her．Soon I lost my father．I didn't know where they were．
It didn't matter．I was dancing in the middle of the crowd．Our family would meet together in the robot plane afterwards．
There were about a thousand people round the fire．Too many people to count．Nearly everybody on Just Like Home was there．
Everybody，on planets all over the Galaxy，was dancing round fires at the same time．What a wonderful thing！
The last dance began．You hold hands in a big circle round the fire—everybody together．You dance round and round in a circle until…
Well，everybody knows what happens in the end．
I was holding hands with someone on my right and someone on my left．We were all shouting，'BURN BURN BURN BURN BURN BURN BURN…'
The last dance went on for a long time．In the end somebody fell down．He pulled down the people on both sides of him．Then people on both sides of them fell down．Everybody was too tired to stay on their feet．
People fell down all round the circle．Falling．Dying．
We wear black clothes to remember．We remember the Burning．
We remember that we have a Galaxy，but we are alone．We are empty in our hearts．We are the only living things in the Galaxy．
Sad．Lonely and sad．
I lay on the ground，very，very tired．I was happy and sad at the same time．Happy to be with everybody，sad that we were alone．
Then the worst thing in my life happened．Somebody came up to me and said，'Hello．'I didn't know who it was．I could only see his eyes shining in the light of the fire．But it was the voice of a man who was much older than me．
'Hello？'I answered．I didn't want to talk to him．
'I saw you in the dance，'he said．'I know you're a young girl because you were dancing like a young girl．I think you're seventeen years old．'
'No，I'm only sixteen，'I said．
'Wonderful．Just what I want，'said the man．'I will marry you．You must marry me．'
I couldn't believe what he was saying．This was terrible．And very bad luck．
Yes，it was true a woman must marry any man who asks her on Remembering Night—by order of the Star Council．I'm sixteen so I'm a woman，not a child．I couldn't say no to this man．I was sick in my heart．
'My name's Buff，'the man said．'What's your name，sweetheart？'
'Er，my name's，er…Caterpillar，'I lied．'I'm usually called Kate．'
'Well，Kate，'Buff said，'will you marry me？'
'I'm sorry，Buff．I know I'm sixteen and old enough to get married but my parents don't want me to get married yet．I'm their only daughter．'
Buff laughed．It was a horrible Iaugh．He enjoyed knowing I didn't want him．What a monster！
Oh，thank Earth－and－animals I hadn't told him my real name！
I jumped up suddenly and ran into the crowds of people in the dark．I was safe．He couldn't find me．I went to our robot plane and sat inside until my parents came．
I didn't tell my parents anything．I was afraid．The Star Council said Buff was right and I was wrong，and I didn't know what my parents would do．
Next morning I forgot about it．How could Buff find me？There were hundreds of girls on our planet．He didn't know my name．He had only seen my eyes．
Suddenly my father came into my room．'Hummingbird，'he said sadly．
'What's the matter？'I asked．'Why are you calling me Hummingbird，not Hummy？'
'Hummingbird，ask your robot for a wedding dress．'
'Why？Why？'But I knew the answer．
'You will marry a gentleman called Buffalo．'
'No，father，I can't．'I started crying．'I don't want to．I'm too young．I don't want to leave you．I hate him！'
My father shook his head．'Please，Hummy，it's only for one year．You can't be a child forever．Lots of girls don't want to get married at first．The Star Council says we must get married as often as possible and have children．You know why．'
'Why？'I spoke like a small child．
'Because we are lonely．Because there is nothing in the Galaxy except us．You know all that，Hummy．'
The dressing-robot made me a wedding dress—we have robots for everything like that．The dress was white and covered me all over except for my eyes．
My father took my arm．
Buff was waiting with my mother．I saw his eyes through the eye-holes of his wedding suit．They were small mean eyes．
My father said，'Her name is Hummingbird．'
'I know，I know，'Buff said．
'How did you find me？'I asked Buff．
'I had a small camera，'he answered．'I took a photo of your eyes．Did you know that everybody's eyes are different？Nobody has eyes like yours．'
I turned to my father．'Listen to him！Can't you see how horrible he is？Please don't make me marry him．'
My father didn't say anything．He couldn't help me．
You can say no if a man asks you to marry him on Remembering Night．But you must have a very special reason．A reason that the Star Council will accept．If you are doing work that is important for the Galaxy，the Council will usually accept that as a good reason．
I couldn't think of anything like that．But it was something to hope for…if I could escape．
I was afraid．I didn't want to run away and never see my family again．
Some neighbours arrived，and the wedding began immediately．
Buff stood next to me and held my hand．His hand was large and a little wet．How I hated him！
My father picked up the Book of Remembering．He read，'In the beginning there were millions of planets in the Galaxy but there was only life on one．That was the planet Earth．People and animals lived together．But people polluted Earth．It became too hot for animals to live．They died．All the animals died．So people left Earth and never returned to that planet．Their hearts were empty when they left Earth，empty today，empty forever…'
Buff was still holding my hand．
My father spoke again．'Buffalo，will you take my daughter Hummingbird to be your wife for one year，in the name of Earth and the animals？'
Buff answered，'I will．'
My father turned to me．'Hummingbird，will you take this man Buffalo to be your husband for one year，in the name of Earth and the animals？'
That's when I ran．
I let the wedding dress fall off me．I ran fast．They ran afterme but I could run much faster without the wedding dress．I got to our robot spaceship，jumped into it and said，'Take off．'
'Why are people running towards us？'the spaceship asked．
'Take off now！'I shouted．'It's life or death！'
The spaceship couldn't argue．It took off．
Just Like Home was green all over—fields of wheat everywhere．I was out in space looking back at my planet．All around me were stars．
The millions of stars in the Galaxy—that's where I could hide！
| 1 你必须嫁给我
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