He supposed it all started with cats. Not the musical or some crazy acronym like Clowns Around The Store but the animal. Felinus familarius or whatever the scientific name actually was.
They had been around Edam as long as he could remember. And he had been able to talk to them almost as long. He often asked them questions about the weird things they did like, "Why do you bring me dead animals?"
And the cats would grudgingly oblige him with an answer to the question in their own special way. If he remembered correctly the answer to that one had been something like, "I want you to fuckin' eat the stupid bastard. Obviously your teeth haven't grown in properly yet and your hunting skills are shit. So I'm helping you."
He would often play with the cats and have long philosophical conversations with them. His parents were not too worried by this behavior. They wrote it off as a phase.
Like an imaginary friend.
They figured as their son matured he'd grow out of this strange little phase. But as the years passed he didn't seem to be getting over this little phase of his. And going to school seemed to make this problem worse.
See when Edam started school he didn't realize he wasn't like other people. He thought everyone could talk to cats just like him. Kindergarten quickly became an eye-opening experience for the young boy.
It didn't take him long to realize that being able to talk to cats wasn't something everybody could do. And the way the cats talked, specifically certain four letter words that they spoke, wasn't tolerated in classrooms.
He shared his weekend with the class once saying, "My cat and I went hunting for fucking rodents with shit for brains." When the teacher asked where he learned such harsh language and Edam answered he learned them from Bianca, his tabby, well… the teacher wasn't amused.
His parents, likewise, were not amused when they had to go to a parent-teacher conference in regards to their son's rotten mouth. And when they found out who their son accused of teaching him the words they knew it was time to put an end to his nonsense.
No. They didn't get rid of the cat. It was a family pet and getting on in age. And they were all quite attached to the pretty orange tabby.
They set their son up with a counselor.
Edam was sent to this person week after week. He would sit down and be told that cats couldn't talk, he couldn't talk to them and they didn't understand each other for forty-five minutes to an hour every week. But through it all he insisted that he could do all those things. Bianca was his friend. After a couple of months with the same amount of progress his parents decided that the counseling wasn't happening often enough. He started meeting the counselor three times a week after that.
By the time he was ten Edam had gotten wise. Nobody was going to convince him he couldn't understand what the cats were saying. He knew he could. But that didn't mean that he had to broadcast it to the rest of the world. He kept his gift hidden, only talking to them when he was on his own. And he started lying to his parents and counselor. He started telling them what they wanted to hear. And in less than three weeks the therapist claimed her work was done. The boy was cured of his eccentrics.
Also at ten, Edam realized that his gift was growing. He could hear dogs. And Horses. He loved talking to horses. And pretty much any domesticated animal.
Then slowly he began to hear more. The voices were muffled at first like he was listening through water, but eventually they came in focus, nice and clear. Zoos were fun. He'd go to make friends. By the time he was sixteen he could hear and talk to pretty much every animal around him. He often disappeared for weekends to go hiking. The chatter of the animals in the woods soothed him. He loved to walk and listen to them chatter.
So it came as no surprise that five years later found him working at a camp. Actually the people most surprised by his chosen line of work were his parents. They argued that Edam didn't really like people. Why would he go to a place swarming with them? And they were right. Edam didn't talk to people. Because people didn't talk to him. They thought he was weird. And more than a little antisocial.
Truth was he just didn't know how to interact with them. Animals were straightforward with their words and very nonjudgmental. He didn't understand all the convoluted undertones that were laced into human speech.
And it wasn't like he was a counselor at the camp. No, he had a job perfect for him. There was little to no human contact and he was outside for large chunks of his day which was great for talking to the animals.
He was the grounds keeper.
The only times he even needed to interact with people were when someone needed him to fix something or when he went to meals.
Usually he would wrap some food up and take it back to his living area to eat alone. When he stayed to eat in the dining hall nobody ever approached him. So it came as a huge surprise one evening when a newly hired counselor walked up to him during the meal and started talking to him. He was so surprised that he was struck stupid and couldn't form a coherent sentence. He managed to do a great impression of a fish.
All the man did was give a hearty laugh and continue on with their conversation. Over the course of the summer the two grew close and Edam could honestly say the man was his best human friend.
Edam learned that the man's name was Jerry. He was all hard muscle and at a hulking 6' 5" looked way more the part of grounds keeper than Edam could ever hope to look. He had cropped hair and kind set brown eyes that radiated pure warmth. They were Edam's favorite feature that the man possessed. If those eyes weren't so kind Jerry would be a very intimidating figure. Nigh unapproachable. But he wasn't. He was a gentle giant.
The behemoth of a man was also very straight forward. And Edam liked that quality very much. It reminded him of the way the animals talked to him. In fact when they had first met Jerry had come out and said he had expected Edam to be the swimming director of the camp because of his lithe build and had laughed good naturedly when Edam said he was the grounds keeper. Saying him having that decision was a surprise.
They became good friends and stayed in contact over the winter season through the wonders of social media. So when Edam learned that Jerry was coming back to camp the next summer he was happy. Everything would be as it was the previous summer and Edam would be content with life.
But their relationship wasn't the same as the last summer.
Edam didn't know what was wrong but he seemed to make Jerry angry more often than not and the man would go storming off in a huff, leaving Edam standing alone.
In fact, that's exactly what had just happened…
They had been talking all nice and civilized when Edam said something that caused Jerry to growl in exasperation; throw his hands in the air and stomp off, disgusted with the other male.
Edam wanted to talk about what had just happened, but didn't know any other humans that he actually liked talking to. So he turned to the animals for advice. He walked through the woods in search of his best buddy, Harvey.
"Hi Edam," he heard as he was passing a tree. Looking up into the branches he saw a squirrel.
"Hey. How's it going? Have you seen Harvey?" He asked, and then wondered if he should have waited to ask another animal. Squirrels didn't have the most reliable memory when it came to… well most things really. After all they couldn't even remember where they hid their nuts.
But to his surprise the squirrel tried to answer, "Yeah, I saw him earlier or… later near the river… or… the hemlock grove… or… No." He stopped to compose himself, shaking his little head and then said with surprising certainty, "It was definitely near the blueberries."
"Okay?" Edam wasn't sure if the squirrel really was sure that Harvey was near any of those places, but he figured he might as well look. As he walked through the woods he continued to get excited greetings from the animals in the woods.
When he reached the blueberries he began looking for Harvey but didn't see him anywhere. Right when Edam was ready to move on to another of the squirrel's suggested areas there was a snapping of a branch. The rustling of a tree. He turned around slowly and came face to face with a giant black bear.