Brian Barrymore is not a normal zombie - he doesn't live in the underground sewers surviving on the brains of rats, lizards and (once in a while) living humans. Instead, Brian spends his days working at the head office of a multinational company.
In this English B1 (intermediate) graded reader, we watch as Brian tries to live a normal life while keeping his true nature a secret from his workmates.
CHAPTER 4: A tough day at the office
Brian arrived later than usual for work one morning after his bus was caught in traffic. There was always more traffic on the roads on rainy days like this one.
The elevator doors opened at his floor and he walked in, hung up his wet coat and left his umbrella by the coat stand to dry. He gave Rachel, the receptionist, a quick wave as he walked straight towards the men's washroom.
Need to check the make-up, Brian thought.
On rainy days, there was a big risk for working zombies like Brian that their make-up would run. And if a working zombie's make-up runs, they soon look like any ordinary sewer zombie - hated and feared by pretty much everyone.
Not too bad, Brain thought - looking at himself in the mirror. He added a little concealer around the eyes and a bit of red to his lips, then left the washroom.
Brian sat down at his desk, checked his appointments for the day and began to answer a couple of emails.
Brian's department, Human Resources, was all found on one floor. It was an open office - so you could see all the way from one side of the floor to the other. But there were low partitions that separated the different areas of HR - Administration, Employee Relations, Health and Safety, Legal, Recruitment (where Brian worked), and Training and Development.
As he was working, he heard several voices coming from the photocopier area behind his desk. They were chatting about something that caught Brian's attention.
"Dead," said one of the voices - a female voice that Brian didn't recognise.
"Gone. Just like that," the voice continued sadly. "Got trapped in an alley. Headhunters came out of nowhere."
"That's the third one this year," said a male voice.
Brian recognised this voice. Nick from Health and Safety. Brian knew Nick quite well. Nick gave Brian training on health and safety issues when Brian first arrived at the company.
"Someone's got to do something about them", Nick continued. "My kids are afraid to leave the house."
"They're everywhere these days," said the first voice. "Even in our office," she added softly.
Brian looked straight ahead and pretended to continue working. He knew where this conversation was going. It was the same every time.
"Now, come on", said another female voice. Brian was pretty sure he recognised this voice. Susie from Marketing. But what's Susie doing here in HR, Brian wondered.
"They're not all the same, you know that," Susie continued. "Most zombies just want to go to work and earn a living like you and me."
"They'd still eat your brains if they could, though, wouldn't they", said Nick.
"I heard they spread disease with everything they touch. To think we have to use the same toilets as they do. Makes me sick," said the first voice.
Brian's head dropped and he stared at the lifeless pair of hands resting on his keyboard.
"There's no evidence that they can spread disease," said Susie.
"No evidence at all", Susie continued. "We've known that for over twenty years. Two decades of research. Come on, you guys work in HR. You know you can't talk like that. They have rights too, you know."
Susie's voice got quieter as she walked away from the other two.
"She's right. You can't say anything these days", said Nick. "You never know who you're talking to."
Later that day, after Brian had eaten his lunch, he bumped into Susie in the elevator.
"Weather's been awful, hasn't it," said Susie.
"Terrible," agreed Brian.
"Hey Susie," Brian went on. "I overheard you speaking to those other guys earlier down in HR. People don't often speak up for zombie rights. Good on you."
"Yeah, I just can't believe people still speak like that in today's world," Susie replied, rolling her eyes upward.
"Well, this is my floor", Susie said as the elevator reached floor sixteen. "Catch you later!"
"See ya," called Brian as the elevator door closed behind her.