It was dark, save for the circle of light coming from a small campfire. Two boys were sitting next to it; one older and the other young. The night sky held a spray of stars that winked and shimmered like an ocean of jewels.
The older boy was absently poking at the fire with a stick while the young one stared intently at something above it. The fire’s thermal plume was lifting sparks high into the air, so that to the young boy, it appeared as if the fire were a nest from which fledgling stars launched themselves toward the heavens, the way a dandelion releases its seeds on the wind.
The young boy turned to the older one and said, “Do you think fire is alive?”
“No, it’s a chemical reaction between oxygen and fuel.”
“Well, I think it’s alive.”
“Because look at the sparks, they’re its babies.”
“Actually, they’re just small, airborne embers.”
The boys fell silent. The older one resumed poking at the fire with his stick while the young boy returned to his vigil.
Many years later, the older boy, now a grown man, would sit next to a campfire with his young son. They would stare up into the night sky and watch the sparks make their ascent.
“Daddy, is fire alive?”
The man started to give an answer then hesitated. After a moment he said, “You know, fire really is alive.”
Then the man pointed up towards the sparks and said, “Do you see the sparks, those are its children.”
He watched the sparks as they rose skyward on their brief flights only to fade and drift back to earth, unseen. His mind filled with thoughts of another little spark who had long since gone to join the stars.