"Who says that rocks are dead?", asked Nina.

"Isn't it obvious?", replied Alicia.

"Obvious in what way?" replied Nina, her eyes sparkling in the firelight.

"Well, it's just obvious that rocks aren't alive", sputtered Alicia, squirming uncomfortably.

Maris nodded in agreement, even though she made no effort to step in and help her friend out of her predicament.

"Then it should be simple enough to explain", continued Nina, not willing to let Alicia wriggle away so quickly.

Alicia initially giggled at Nina's statement, but the smile instantly vanished as soon as she realized that her best friend's mother wasn't joking at all.

"It's just obvious, that's all", stammered Alicia, "everyone knows that rocks aren't alive."

"When you say that 'rocks aren't alive', do you mean that the rocks were once alive and are now dead? Or that they were never alive in the first place, yet somehow managed to become deceased?"

Alicia could scarcely maintain her composure, her face flushed and reddened, magnifying the golden flecks that shimmered in the green of her eyes.

"I meant that the rocks have never been alive in the first place."

"What about the minerals that make up your body?", queried Nina, "Are you saying that everything you're made up of is dead as well."

"She's got you there", chimed in Maris, wide-eyed with fascination that her best friend would dare to debate her mother.

"It's pretty obvious that I'm not dead!" exclaimed Alicia in exasperation.

"See, I told you that this is how my mother is, but you never believed me", piped in Maris, "She can be really tricky."

Nina looked over at Maris, somewhat shocked to realize the depth of her daughter's conversations with her best friend. Nina knew that she could be a lot to handle, there was no question about that, but she had promised herself a long time ago not to hide her light from anyone.

"So, you're alive, but the minerals that you're made up of are dead?"

"Yes"

"Why?"

"Well, that's just the way it is", stammered Alicia, looking less confident at her answers.

"It might seem that way", replied Nina, "but does that make it so?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, think back to the Animal, Vegetable, Mineral game", said Nina.

"Alright."

"You agree that animals, including humans are alive, right?"

"Yes"

"As are plants and vegetables?"

"Yes"

"Then why would minerals be any different?"

Alicia's eyes suddenly widened with curiosity, for she had never thought to view the world through this particular lens.

"Why would minerals be any different?", she thought to herself, growing increasingly perplexed the more she contemplated Nina's question.

Alicia sighed, realizing that she had no way to answer the question posited by Maris' mother. As convinced as she was that rocks, along with the rest of the Mineral Kingdom, were dead — dead as dead could be — she couldn't figure out a way to explain why this was so.

Not that she thought that these rocks might have once been alive either. After all, it wasn't like anyone — or anything — had gone out and killed all the pebbles scattered across the earth. That would be like saying that someone had murdered the cliff when they cut up the rocks to build Ol' Stoney.

If anything, Ol' Stoney was the most unique aspect of this entire town and possessed a character all its own. Alicia had always considered Ol' Stoney to have a life of its own — no matter how ridiculous this might have sounded to others.

"But Ol' Stoney is a collection of rocks", Alicia thought to herself, "That's what provides it with such personality and presence."

That night, long after her allotted bedtime, Alicia continued to contemplate the question posited by Maris' mother. For some reason the thought that rocks might be alive unnerved her to no end, bringing up memories of her father speaking of dirt as if it were alive as well.