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 7: An incident in the washroom
In the days after the party, Brian thought he noticed some changes around the office. Just a few little things here and there that made him pause and think. Hmm.
He wasn't sure whether he was just imagining these things.
For example, each day when he opened the fridge to collect his lunch, was it just Brian's imagination or was his lunchbox always on its own in a corner while the rest of the fridge was full? Was he also imagining the looks in his direction when workmates were chatting nearby? And there was the time when he was introduced to someone who just smiled when Brian went to shake his hand.
One day, Brian experienced something that was definitely not just in his imagination.
On one of Brian's visits to the washroom, after he had walked out of one toilet cubicle, he saw a worker standing by the next cubicle. The man was reading something on his phone and seemed to be waiting for a free toilet cubicle.
"This one's free," Brian said to the man, pointing at the toilet cubicle he had just come out of.
"That's fine. I'll wait," said the man without looking up. He continued to look at his phone.
Brian walked past the man towards the sinks, making sure he kept his body between his hands and the man. Careful, thought Brian. Can't let him see.
As he washed his hands, he watched as small bits of skin peeled off and floated down the sinkhole. His hands began to lose their colour.
Brian was prepared for this and always carried a tanning moisturising cream in his back pocket. This helped manage the dryness and add some colour back. He dried his hands and applied the cream, all the time with his back to the man.
As he opened the door to leave, he heard a voice call out from behind him.
Brian left the room and walked back to his desk. He tried to get on with his work, but found his mind going back to what the man said. He kept hearing those two words over and over in his head.
The next day, Brian told Steve about the guy in the washroom.
Brian and Steve had become friends over the past few weeks and Brian felt comfortable enough to speak to him about his personal life.
"That's terrible, Brian," said Steve with a sorry look on his face. "Try and forget about it, mate. Those kind of people - they're not worth thinking about."
"News travels fast, I guess," said Brian, thinking back to the night of the staff party.
Steve paused for a moment, before looking up at Brian.
"Speaking of news, have you checked the staff noticeboard recently?" Steve asked.
"No, not lately," Brian responded.
"Well, there's this one notice about an 'undead-friendly' event happening soon. I didn't have time to read it properly. Why don't you check it out?"
On his way back to his desk, Brian checked the noticeboard. There, in the corner, was a sheet of paper with a headline written in big letters.
UNDEAD-FRIENDLY SOCIAL NIGHT THIS FRIDAY
Below the headline, there was an image of the sun rising from behind mountains. Yellow rays of sunlight were shining in all directions.
Brian read on.
Join workmates for food, drinks and fun at The Sunrise Bar!
All are welcome - just bring a warm smile!
BYO food/drinks (for dietary requirements)
6pm, Friday 6th May, The Sunrise Bar, West Street
BYO, Brian wondered.
Oh right, he thought. Bring Your Own.
On Thursday evening, Brian received a message from Susie on his phone.
So, meet you tomorrow at 6 downstairs?
Brian wrote back, confused.
Why, what's happening?
A few seconds later, he received another message.
Undead-friendly event at Sunrise Bar. You're coming with me and Steve, right? Just say yes.
Brian didn't know what to say at times like this. Susie was always so positive about ... well, everything. Just say yes. That was easy for her to say. She wasn't undead. She hadn't gone through what Brian had. She didn't have to deal with people avoiding her, giving her funny looks or saying nasty things. Same thing with Steve. What had Steve gone through that was anything like this? What if Brian was the only zombie there? What if the bar was full of haters? He might have to take more abuse from people. There could be a fight.
Brian started to think of reasons not to go to the event. Perhaps he could say he was sick. Or perhaps he already had plans. He could have plans.
You never have plans, Brian, he thought.
"Just say yes!" shouted Susie's voice in his head, breaking through his thoughts.
Brian reached for his phone and started typing.
Sure, see you downstairs at 6.
Then he hit the 'send' button.