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The crook of Hampton's arm itched.  He sat absentmindedly scratching a red pustule, which was widening into a hole in the soft fleshy spot above his forearm.  He was sitting on a couch, which sat beneath a picture window at the front of the Moore's house.  He also slept on the couch when he could sleep, but he'd been up for three days on this latest run.  The blinds were becoming misshapen in the middle; permanent peep holes forming from his obsessive prying them apart, to peer anxiously out on the world he knew was stalking from beyond the window.

He tried to remember the last time he'd eaten.  His hand trembling, he reached for a glass of water that stood on the coffee table, holding it up for inspection in a shaft of light that broke through the cracked blinds.  He could see moats of dust floating on the air, and he watched them pass right through the boundary of the glass in his hand, into his water.  It seemed extraordinary that the glass, which contained the water, could keep the water molecules in, but failed to keep the dust moats out.  He examined the glass for pores, but concluded they must be masked in transparency.  It was an extension of the same trick that allowed glass to collect the flesh of people who missed its shards when walking around on bare feet, and Hampton wondered why no one ever talked about what people should do about such things. 

He walked to the kitchen and filled a pan with water, setting it to boil on the stove.  When bubbles flocked toward the surface, he picked up the bowl he discarded needles in and dumped them in the boiling water.  He watched the needles boil, scratching at his arm again as he considered his dilemma. 

He'd had to get clean for his father's service, and he'd remained clean for the duration of his stay with Cass and Toby.  His best girl had even given him a second look before giving up again.  The problem with getting clean though, was that he never really felt clean.  He was dogged by a constant sensation of being a stain.  He was like a blot on the blank page of possibility, where reality continually resurfaced like a developing photograph.  After Quinn left for her internship, Hampton moved back home to hold down the fort, but soon discovered it was once more himself he was holding down.

The initial pain of withdrawal failed to diminish over the few weeks he spent at Cass and Toby's house.  The constant pins and needles torment, and sense that his major organs were in revolt had led him to assume that he, like his father, must have become an unwitting host to some sinister strain of parasite.  After a few days back home it occurred to Hampton that because of his drug use, he had likely introduced parasites into his blood stream that had only been kept in check by the toxicity of the drugs he had used. 

If amoebas capable of eating away a person's brain could be commonly found in the environment at large, he wondered what kind of nasty bugs might exist with a special taste for blood and needles.  Even the retroviruses associated with intravenous drug use were parasitic in their own right, virally re-programming a person's own cells to serve their purposes.  The amoebas, viruses, and parasites were all hackers, and the only firewall Hampton could muster was a white flag in the form of a needle hitting his vein.  Even anti-malarial drugs couldn't compete with the toxicity of what he could purchase on the street.

When he'd finished boiling his needles in an effort to kill off some of the bugs, he dumped them in a colander to drain off the water, and then carried them back into the living room, planting himself once more on the couch.  Inserting his thumb and forefinger into the space bent in the blinds, he pulled them slowly wider apart so he could peer out at the street again.  There was a car parked a short distance up the street, with a man sitting on the driver's side.  Hampton thought at some point they would change up the people they sent to watch him, but every day it was the same man in the same car, though he parked in different spots each day on the long street that passed in front of the Moore's house. 

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