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 6: The staff party
Over the next few months, Brian's friendship with Susie grew stronger. They often went to lunch together and Susie never seemed to ask questions about what Brian was eating.
They joked about all kinds of things - their lives, the city, the people they worked with, their jobs.
Brian was amazed how passionate she was about marketing. She really seemed fascinated by the different ways you could reach people and attract their interest in a company and its products.
One day, as they were having lunch together in the staff eating area, Brian started a conversation he had never had before.
"Susie, listen. I've been wanting to tell you something for a while now."
"Oh, yeah," Susie replied, raising her eyebrows and smiling. "This sounds interesting."
"Well, it's just that I," Brian said, pausing to find the right words.
"Go on," said Susie, leaning towards Brian and knocking him shoulder to shoulder.
"I just, um, thought that," Brian continued, "now could be a good time to let you know that...well, it's a bit difficult to say out loud, but...".
"You know I'm married, don't you Brian?" Susie with a serious look on her face.
"Well, no. I mean, yes. I do now, I guess," said Brian, forgetting what he was trying to say.
"I'm kidding!" Susie said laughing. "You know I'm not married. I've been telling you for weeks about all the guys I like. Seriously Brian, just hurry up and finish what you want to say. I've got to get back to work soon."
"I'm a zombie!" Brian said quickly, his eyes dropping down towards the chicken brains in his lunchbox.
"Oh Brian, of course you are," said Susie, touching Brian's arm gently.
Brian looked up at Susie, searching for clues in her eyes. "What do you mean? You knew? How?" he asked.
"Of course I knew. I read the signs," Susie replied.
"Signs? What signs?"
"Where should I start?" Susie said with a soft laugh. "Head down every time someone like Nick mentions the undead. Twenty bathroom visits a day to check your make-up. Lipstick stains on your glass after you drink. And just look at what you're eating Brian! Shall I go on?"
"So you noticed then," Brian replied, playing with his unfinished chicken brains with a fork.
Brian's eyes lit up.
"But you're okay with it?" he asked. "I mean, you're cool with me being a zombie?"
"Brian, come on. How long have we been friends for?" Susie said. "Of course I'm cool with it. It doesn't change anything."
Brian smiled. "Thanks Susie," he said.
Susie went on. "You know, things have changed a lot over the past few years. You might be surprised how accepting people can be nowadays."
"So, are you coming to the staff party tonight?" Brian asked. "It's on floor twenty."
"Food, drink and dancing? Count me in!" Susie answered.
After work, Brian joined a group of workmates from his department to go upstairs to the staff party.
This year, the company had decided to use the conference rooms on floor twenty and had hired caterers to provide the food and a DJ for the music. The food was served buffet-style, so each staff member could pick up a plate and choose from a range of food. There was also an 'open bar', where alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks were being served for free.
Brian didn't usually enjoy these parties. He never really knew what to say to people and was always worried about how he looked. But that evening he felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. For the first time in a long time, he felt ... alive.
Brian saw Susie chatting with some workmates and went over to join her. He recognised two of these workmates - Steve and Jason, both from the Property department. There were three more members of staff who Brian didn't recognise.
"Brian!" called Steve, as Brian got closer.
"Everyone, this is Brian, from HR," Steve said to the group. "Brian, this is Mary, Jane and Victor - all from Property. I think you've met Jason before. And this is Susie from Marketing."
"Actually, we already know each other," said Susie, sipping a cocktail. "Unfortunately," she added while punching Brian lightly on the arm.
"Hey guys, nice to meet you," said Brian.
"Anyone want a drink?" asked Steve, walking towards the bar.
As the party went on and the music got louder, more and more people moved away from the food and towards the dance floor.
A couple of other staff members had joined Brian's group and they were all chatting happily. Brian had had a few beers and was feeling a little light-headed. He didn't mind. It was a good feeling. It was the feeling of freedom.
They chatted and laughed about all kinds of things - things they were working on, the people they knew, the music that was playing, the food served at the buffet, famous people, TV and much more.
When someone mentioned zombie films, Brian suddenly spoke without thinking.
"Did you know I'm a zombie?"
Brian was surprised by their reactions. Everyone seemed fine with the news.
The group continued to chat, joke and laugh, before joining the dance floor and dancing into the night.