The extraterrestrial not only phoned, it arrived at the appointed meeting place on time. Hardly believing his luck, the Soviet reporter flipped out his notebook and, in the finest tradition of glasnost, shot out a question: "And what were your feelings on your arrival, comrade spaceman?"
"I couldn't believe my three eyes," said the alien, a 9-ft.-tall assemblage of humps, arms and legs, outfitted in silver overalls and bronze boots. "This planet is so much like my own. When I landed in my pink space ball, the sunset lighted up tall nonnatural structures that resembled the state housing collectives back home. I've gone through your papers and read all about the two-headed Abominable Snowmen and the psychic cures for arthritis -- Oh, the secret balsam-water diet that lets you lose 40 lbs. in two days and prevents tooth decay? Leonid wants me to bring the details back for him."
No. This story has not quite appeared in the Soviet media. But a report carried by the news agency TASS last week told of a similarly dressed, three- eyed space creature landing in late September in the town of Voronezh, 300 miles southeast of Moscow. There it zapped a 16-year-old boy with a gun that made him disappear temporarily. Pelted with questions from skeptics, TASS stood by its story. Said an agency official huffily: "It is not April Fools' today." Sovietskaya Kultura, a Communist Party paper dedicated to the arts, ran the story, claiming it was following "the golden rule of journalism: the reader must know everything."
Freed by Mikhail Gorbachev to report on the corrupt and famous, Soviet journalists are busy pushing glasnost toward its tabloid outer limits -- tracking down space visitors and exploring psychic mysteries. Science takes a whirl with fantasy. Fiction runs away with the facts. Humanoids abduct humans.
Earlier in the year, the newspaper Socialist Industry reported an "encounter" between a milkmaid in the region of Perm and a cosmic creature that looked like a man but was "taller than average with shorter legs." Last week the Soviet newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda declared that not only had an Abominable Snowman been caught stealing apples in the Saratov region but researchers had "registered the influence of energies" at a site in Perm, leading a geologist to conclude that they had discovered a landing field for flying saucers. The same story transcribed a telepathic discourse between Pavel Mukhortov, a journalist from Riga, and an all too knowing extraterrestrial.
"Where are you from?" asked Mukhortov.
"The Red Star of the Constellation of Libra is our home."
"Could you shift me to your planet?"
"That will mean no return for you and danger for us."