You can see it for miles, looming over the birch forests and wildflower fields and construction sites crammed with future dachas for Russia's rich and ruthless. Stabbing up toward heaven from its hilltop perch, the pyramid gleams white under the blast of northern sun. Twelve stories high, 55 tons of fiberglass, swarming with Russians desperate to rearrange their energy fields and cure their karma.
Everybody, it seems, has heard some miracle tale about the pyramid: The sterile woman miraculously impregnated after a visit. The prisoners pacified with drafts of saltwater charged by the energies of the pyramid. The pillar of mysterious force allegedly emanating from the peak, healing the ozone layer over Russia.
"You can't expect to build a pyramid and see everything change overnight. It happens gradually," says Alexander Golod, a Ukrainian defense contractor who has spent millions of dollars building pyramids around the former Soviet Union and beyond. "The possibility of any emergency decreases, including hurricanes and typhoons. It seriously changes physical and psychological conditions."
It is a thick summer afternoon here outside Moscow, and Golod sits in a yard of bright grass and vibrant poppy beds. His wife chases their grandson through the fruit trees. Between the rooftops, the pyramid blocks the horizon -- he and his family live well within reach of the pyramid's energy, he says.
Asked what drives his obsession with pyramids, he takes a long time to answer. He blinks his blue eyes. Finally, he says: "The pyramid changes the structure of space."
Olympic athletes visit the pyramid to boost their strength, he says, and Russian cosmonauts are so fond of the pyramid that they have taken keepsakes from within the structure into space. (An official at Russia's Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center could not confirm this claim, and said he doubted its truth.)
Rumors of the pyramid's mysterious powers have spread through the suburbs and into the city. People come looking for peace of mind, strength, health, insight. Life is hard these days in Moscow. The city is a place of blank expressions and cold shoulders. Prices climb high and then higher still.
But the pyramid is quiet and cool, a sort of New Age monastery. There's no sign, no gate and no admission tickets. Visitors park in the dust, wander inside and stay as long as they like. Swallows wheel in circles up in the roof. Summer sun filters thinly though the fiberglass, casting an amber glow. Three massive globes -- one each for geography, topography and astronomy -- swell in the center of the floor, surrounded by benches.
And on one of the benches sits a stooped woman, stretching her arms to the ceiling, scooping them through the air and pulling them down to her heart.
"Try it for yourself," she says. "Feel how you are drawing the energy to yourself."
Another woman, Lidiya Okhapkina, is 70 years old. She brought some visiting family members to the pyramid because she's heard it can cure sickness and pain. She only wants to be healthy, she says.
"So far," she sighs ruefully, "I don't feel much."
Kseniya Simonova, blond hair dripping in her eyes, arm laced hip to hip around her boyfriend, has heard the stories, too. A crew team visited the pyramid, then rowed to first place, boosted by supernatural powers, she explains, giggling all the time. "We've heard you get crazy energy from it," she says.
But that's not why she and her boyfriend, both recent college graduates, have driven all the way out to the pyramid. The truth is, they're looking for a good hangover cure. "They say no pills can help you like the pyramid," she says, and the young couple nearly fall to the floor in fits of laughter.
Behind glass counters stacked with stuffed pandas, jewelry and stone eggs, Olga Vorobyova keeps watch. Three years ago, when she took a job peddling super-energized crystals and water in the belly of the pyramid, she was sick and weighed down with troubles in her personal life. But now, because of the "positive energy" of her work space, she has been cured.
"Bad things used to happen. My husband drank a lot and we had no money," she says. "Now I live alone and life is better. I feel healthier."
Posters on the wall offer visitors "A brief description of the effect of the pyramid shape on things," "A brief description of the effect of the pyramid shape on the organism," and "The general possibility of the use of pyramids." People stand quietly, and read.
Outside, cicadas buzz in the high summer grasses. Traffic piles up on the road back into Moscow. In a little hut, a 20-year-old college student named Denis Yakunin peers into a computer screen, telling customers about their auras for the low price of $20.
Today a father has marched his teenage son up through the curtains printed with moons and stars, and settled him before Yakunin.
"On the whole, everything is pretty harmonious, with the backdrop of some fatigue," he draws out the words slowly. "You are aimed toward material values. You may make a good businessman."
"Can he be a little bit psychologically unstable?" the father interrupts anxiously. "Yes," Yakunin agrees gravely, head nodding over his Beatles T-shirt. "You can see that."
When the customers are gone, Yakunin shrugs. "You can call it electronic fortune-telling," he says. "Most people want to resolve personal problems with their characters or see how their spiritual development is proceeding."
Igor Kacher is headed for home. A 51-year-old construction manager, he stopped by the pyramid to pick out a birthday present for his secretary. He walked away with a small quartz elephant.
"It's difficult for me to really, seriously judge, but I do believe it has some cosmic force," he says, fingering the gift. "They say the pyramid charges everything here with special energy. I was always curious about it."
Does he find it eccentric, this creation of a pyramid?
"No," he says firmly, as if the question were foolish. "Nobody thought this was crazy."