The real life name for Sailor Moon as she is known by the poor saps who have only seen the horrendous english dub. Use of this forbidden word among rabid^H^H^H^H^Hdevoted anime fans will likely cause shudders of revulsion and disgust (much like referring to a unix command prompt as "DOS" in a LUG may offend some). Real Fans call her Tsukino Usagi.

For another word that should be avoided among anime fans, see cartoon.

I was never actually interested in her

I certainly didn't love her. Not for a moment. Loving someone you've never met comes close to lunacy, and besides... that's not why I talk to them. Not any of them. 

You meet a lot of women like Serena in IRC, if you avoid the more blatant of the sex-soliciting channels. There's always a lonely woman waiting for a sympathetic ear and a virtual hug... and sometimes... usually even, for more.

You can use a lot of your life up having cyber with women you'll never meet, never touch. It's not the same as having someone to hold at night... but it's more fulfilling that just cruising the porn sites and using up all your tissues alone. I dunno, it feels less... dirty... less pathetic somehow.

In the beginning Serena was only after a person to unload her troubles on. They all begin that way. And I listen.

I listened for endless hours as she poured out her life story. An unhappy marriage. Sexually frustrated. Ambitions crushed. Lonely. Embittered... Vulnerable.

Just like a dozen other women I've known and talked to.

I had the patter down.

I listened to her. 
And if I sometimes left the TV on while we chatted, if more of my attention was on whether there was a slice of uneaten pizza left in the fridge than on her troubles, she never realised. 

I hugged her. A lot. And whenever she looked as though she might want to take it another step, I backed off. Right off. I told her I was confused, vulnerable, not ready for this. I was zealous in my support of her, my condemnation of her husband.

And, like all of them, she lapped it up.

Soon, she was eating out of my hand.

I manipulated her into complimenting me by telling her how pathetic I was, how useless. How alone.

Even backhanded compliments, worked for, dug out of lonely women are rewarding for an ego as alone and desirous of boosting as mine.

One night as we were chatting, she asked me if I would like to see her picture, and I casually agreed, not allowing the trembling of my fingers to show in my typing. This was always the make or break stage. If I reacted properly, she'd be hooked, and mine for... for as long as I wanted her, really.

I looked up to the corkboard by my desk, looking over the souvenir photos of woman I had known like this over the last two years. Each photo was printed out with dates and comments. Some of the comments were about where I'd got it right. And a couple were about how I'd get it wrong. 

Sometimes I feel those pictures and I have some sort of complicitous relationship. Each one helps me refine my touch, hone my skills. Samantha tells me not to push for too much too soon. Tabby tells me never to accept that "I'm ok" means "I'm ok" Elizabeth reminds me that attacking a husband, even a brutal one, tends to backfire. And Erica jogs my memory about the Healthy Lifestyle people and how to get them. Be enthusiastic about lentils. About walking. Even about soy. I don't know where I'd be without them.

I was determined not to get it wrong this time.

The file finished sending, and I opened it at once, keeping up the flow of sympathy and gentle touch I had been working into all this week, and as I looked at Serena's face for the first time I knew I had to get it right this time.

Serena was exquisite, doll-like. Scarlet lips and nails. Trim waist. Tiny, delicate hands. And a look of such wistfulness that I almost felt myself feeling all the sympathy and care I'd been showing her. And I began on my piece de resistance.

In the chat client, I took her hand. I kissed it, softly. 
"My gods... Serena... I'm speechless...You're beautiful"

I told her I was in awe.

She didn't reply.

I waited.

I couldn't have blown it this time. Not with this woman.

She didn't reply.

"Serena?"

She didn't reply.

But the chat client did.

"Serena: No such nick/channel"

I swore. How had I managed to scare her off?

I mailed her at once, all concern, restating how lovely she was, and asking if she was OK. I had no reply.

Three days later I received an email couched in frosty tones. It seemed Serena had asked a friend to write to me.

"Mr. Frankin,
Serena is dead. 
Her husband came home early and was most unhappy with what he saw on her screen.
She died this morning.
This is all your fault"

It was unsigned, and the address was unreachable.

That was four weeks ago.

I still can't get to sleep.

I can't eat.

I never loved her. Not for a moment. Not me.

Oh god... I miss her so much

...Serena...

 

Serena is also a large amusement park/sports center on the outskirts of Helsinki, Finland, consisting of half a dozen intertwingled operations.

Serena Water Park

The biggest reason to visit, and one of the coolest hottest places in Helsinki especially in the winter, is the Serena Water Park. Now the observant reader may recall that Helsinki is on the 60th parallel, not terribly far from the Arctic Circle, and wonder whether this is compatible with frolicking about in a bikini -- but that's what makes Serena unique: 2000 m2 of the park are covered and heated, which allows the water park to stay open all year round!

And boy, do they pack some stuff into that cavernous hall. There are five large water slides catering to all tastes: the Aquatube drops you down a 45 degree slide at over 40 km/h, the nameless light blue slide is gentler but 140 meters long, and everybody's favorite, the new Black Hole, plunges you through complete darkness punctuated with spacey light effects. The unpredictable Wild Stream (Villivirta) river ride circles the hall and through the rock, with new surprises after each bend. Then there are waterfalls, jacuzzis, a wave pool, and of course (this is Finland after all) a dedicated sauna section. In the Turkish steam sauna you can even find yourself face to face with naked members of the opposite sex -- although there is a railing and a dense fog of steam in the way. And during the summer, another 1000 square meters of aquatic fun is opened up.

But the best part of this is that the hall has plenty of windows, which means that you can settle down in a warm jacuzzi with a drink from the bar in your hand, wrap an arm around a blonde Nordic goddess barely contained by her swimsuit (hint: you may wish to ask permission first), and then enjoy the fact that you are not outside, where the temperature is -25°C and the wind is blowing straight from Siberia. The heating bill for the place boggles the mind.

Serena Ski

Oddly enough, some people actually seem to like going up and down hills in such weather, an expensive habit that Serena Ski is happy to accommodate. There are five slopes and four lifts, but southern Finland is terribly flat so the maximum descent is a whopping 60 meters. In the summer, the ski slopes transform into the Serena Mountain Cross Center, where you can roll down those same slopes in little "EKO" cars powered by the fearsome force of gravity -- not one of the more successful bits of the Serena Empire.

Granina/Caveman Restaurants

Much of the water park has been dug into the hillside, so lurking in its bowels are also two restaurants. The family-friendly Granina offers burgers and chips at inflated prices, but it has an effective monopoly; the Caveman Restaurant is only open for conferences and other special occasions.

Costs and Getting There

The water park is open every day (except Christmas) 11-20. Entry costs €15 for a full day and €11 for the 16-20 evening ticket; in my opinion, four hours is just about right, unless you've got hyperactive kids in tow.

Ski passes cost from €13 (2 hours) to €20 (full day), but are perhaps best combined with the water park for a relatively affordable €22. Ski rental is also available.

The best way to get to Serena is by your own car, or do as the Russians do and take an entire tour bus. If you have to resort to public transportation, bus 339KT from Helsinki's Central Bus Station will do the trip in 40-50 minutes, but these run less than once per hour so check schedules beforehand.

References

www.serena.fi/english/
Personal experience

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