There they were, gliding soundlessly above me in the night. One glowing orange orb had slowly emerged from over the tree line, flying lower than a commercial aircraft but too high to discern any detail. Another followed, then another. All told, I watched nearly a dozen UFOs parade across the sky and then disappear without a trace.
It was around 11 p.m., and I had just left a wedding in Pinehurst, N.C. Reeling, I recalled a time about six years ago when I had witnessed the same phenomenon near my home in Maryland: a procession of soundless orange circles that resembled no human aircraft I’d ever seen. Armed with a poor-quality photo and the testimony of one other witness, I decided to investigate.
I called the Federal Aviation Administration and explained what I had seen.
“I promise I’m a perfectly sane person,” I said in conclusion.
“Yes, we’ve actually received several similar calls,” said the woman on the end of the line. “We’ll look at the radar and give you a call back later today or tomorrow. You’re not a member of the media, just a concerned citizen, right?”
“Right,” I said. “Not concerned about the possibility of aliens or anything silly like that, but, you know, just concerned.”
She called me back several hours later and said that while she couldn’t offer me any sort of explanation, she could assure me that the aircraft in question weren’t for civilian use.
I was both heartened and frightened by her answer. I was one step closer to proving the existence of aliens. I could feel it. Was the world ready for such a revelation?
I called Fort Bragg to ask if the base had authorized any military flights over Pinehurst that evening. The man on the line said they often have planes in that area and asked me to describe what I saw. I rehashed it: orange, glowing, soundless, circular. He said he had never seen an aircraft that matched such a description. Plus, he added, a glowing plane would hinder most missions. I sent him the photo just in case, and he was just as baffled.
After two high-profile phone calls, the flying objects remained unidentified. I began to seriously consider the possibility of earning fame and fortune by finally proving that we are not alone. I began to look up NASA's phone number. Then my phone buzzed.
My sole witness solved the mystery, not by calling government agencies or military bases, but by flipping through Facebook. The telling photo featured the bride and groom happily launching Chinese lanterns into the dark sky.
Somewhere, the aliens are laughing at me.