Benjamin carefully lowered himself to the sand, stepping down off the final rock with relief and a sense of finality, that this would be the last time he could make this trip. Hell, that’s what the cancer said, anyhow.
It’d been a whole year since his last visit, he could hardly believe how time was flying by. His cane dipped into the sand, and was difficult to pull and move along, but he managed to take himself to the water. He watched his old and wrinkled toes get washed by the water and the chill climbed up his legs with each incoming wave.
To his right there was a couple buried under a white blanket, laughter occasionally carried by the wind in his direction. He remembered his nights on these shores, when he was younger. His fiancee had insisted they remain polite to people around them, but Benjamin knew she was being coy. His suspicion had been confirmed when she’d brought out their blanket and wrapped herself across his lap, the blanket across her back. It’s too bad I never married her, he thought.
He walked back from the water and sat on the nearest rock, catching his breath. The thermos was full of hot coffee, enough to last him the day. That would be fine in his eyes. Every year it was the same, and only after he’d turned 60 did he even think of bringing the thermos. The sun was a cruel tease, pretending to lay yellow warmth across the beach when reality slapped it back with a cool breeze.
40 years he’d been coming here, on this day, the 10th of May. 40 years was a long time, he could hardly believe it. As he sipped his first cup, he thought back to the first of those years.
The occurrence had left him with a sour taste for winter. That taste hadn’t hit him until he’d landed back in Philadelphia. So powerful was the rejection of his home state that within an hour of landing Benjamin had packed a new bag and hopped on a return flight to San Diego.
He managed to busy himself with readjusting his life long enough to forget the beach, and the strange occurrence, until the following year. May 10th rang in his head like a mantra. May 10th, the day you met them.
His fiance never believed it, and she was insistent on leaving California for a more realistic financial environment. But Benjamin was locked in superstition and would only leave if they came back, the same time every year. She’d agreed, at first, but three weeks before the wedding suddenly grew cold at the thought of him flying out of town. “Three weeks to go, you can’t stop and focus on this with me, just this one year?”
“It’s important, and they might need my help.”
“Benjamin…it’s been how long? Six, seven years? Let them go. Let it go, it wasn’t real.”
He decided to leave her then, and moved back to California. It was one thing to doubt and support, it was another to outright disbelieve.
Benjamin poured a second cup of coffee, and looked out to the left near the lifeguard shack. He always found it funny, the shack, being built up among the rocks, the ladder leading to a pile of weeds that appeared sharp and useless. Even if there were a lifeguard, how would he make it to the water in time? Then he reasoned that if there had been a lifeguard that day, it would have changed everything.
He’d been alone when it happened. When they appeared.
The woman, Kathy, was young, but must’ve been in her thirties. She just looked young, to Benjamin, because she was so thin, and her eyes so vibrant with life. Her companions were older men, like Benjamin’s father, at the time. After all these years, he still didn’t like those men. Like they were up to something he would never understand.
He still didn’t understand.
Kathy had been kind, slowly explaining to Benjamin that they were time travelers, from the past, and they were experiencing malfunctioning gear. He didn’t believe it, of course. What kind of crazy person claims to be a time traveler? From the past? And travels to a beach in San Diego?
Benjamin himself had felt like a time traveler at the time. He’d gone out for a drink in Philadelphia, and woke up on this beach, three days later.
Kathy and her companions suddenly disappeared, and that’s when Benjamin had thrown up. That part of the memory was clear as day, and he could still picture it splattering into the rocks, and onto his phone. A challenge to get hold of his friends ensued, and then Kathy popped back, just as he’d been climbing the rocks. “Please, help us!”
Benjamin talked with her, and they worked out the problem: the equipment was buggy, she’d have to take it off. They made a promise that Benjamin would wait for her, just in case she suddenly traveled away. Her appearances are going to be close enough together, she said, just wait a little.
Then she did travel again, fading away as they’d reached the top of the rocks. Benjamin had waited until dark, then flew home. And came back every year, on the anniversary.
60 years on, Benjamin was still happy to make the trek. Even if they didn’t show, the view was fantastic, and the coffee, now, was warm and tasty. His home nurse would come down from the car soon, to bring him back home to do more writing.
The air grew salty, and clouds darker, and the day wore on. Benjamin heard footsteps on the rocks behind him, and looked out for one last glimpse at the horizon, the setting sun. “Another year, another lonely day at the beach.”
He turned, grabbed his nurse’s hand, and found instead Kathy’s. She was naked, shivering. Benjamin threw his jacket over her shoulders.
She managed to avoid traveling again until after he died, later that year. Her companions were never seen again.