by quine spiders. cw: pet horror

i have a friend who works in animation, jay bloom, and a few years ago, they kind of hit it big with a children's show called mustard. you have almost certainly heard of it - it's a preschool cartoon about a family of dogs, playing games together and processing emotions, starring a puppy named mustard as the main character.

it originally just aired on the state broadcaster's kids block, but it took off - soon every state in the country aired it, and then it went international - it seemed like every kid with access to streaming or tv knew about this show. it was getting translated into other languages, there was spinoff media and toys, tourist attractions sprung up in the city it was set in, jay was being interviewed on news outlets and invited as a guest on livestreams - the show was absolutely huge, a sensation.

and our state's government was quite proud of it as well - people halfway across the world were hearing our accents on their tv, even picking up slang from our slightly-obscure corner of the world, and it was the state broadcaster who aired the show in the first place, who owned the rights. they were making millions of dollars from it.

so when jay let it slip in an interview that there was a real mustard, that the dog was designed and named after my dog, it wasn't long before the state broadcaster reached out to me with a slightly unusual proposition: they would cover healthcare costs for mustard, and even pay some pretty substantial royalties to me, if i would agree to bring her to occasional events, let tourists visit her on certain days, stuff like that.

as a student with a lot of debt, i wasn't really even in a position to turn down the kind of money they were giving me, and mustard had needed veterinary care, which had gotten so expensive... suffice to say, i signed their contracts pretty quickly, without even a whole lot of thought.

life honestly got a lot easier for me after signing, at first anyways. the royalties meant i wasn't struggling financially anymore, and it hardly took more than a few days every month. mustard is a very social dog, so she really enjoyed all the meet-and-greets.

when she got very sick a year later, i called the state broadcaster, and just as they promised, they got her the very best veterinary care that money could buy, and it didn't cost me anything at all- they even paid for the train ticket to see the vet.

after a while though, the contract started eating up more and more of my time. a cumulated few days a month turned into an entire week a month, and then two weeks. i reached out to the state broadcaster, explaining that it was taking too much time from my studies. they thought i wanted to terminate the contract, and this is when i learned that it couldn't be terminated without the consent of them. not that it mattered - again, i couldn't really afford to terminate it, even if i wanted to.

i explained that i didn't want to terminate it, that i just needed the time commitments to be dialed down a bit. what they proposed was giving me a modest raise on my royalties, and in addition, mustard would get a trained handler to take her to events in my place. it sounded pretty reasonable to me, and i needed the money anyways, so i accepted.

it was a little weird that the handler could show up pretty much any day to borrow my dog, and a lot of the time i got very little advance warning, but mustard got along well enough with her, and it really took a lot of stress off my plate. the number of events she was being taken to increased further - sometimes she would be gone most of the week, though she was always back to snuggle in my bed by the end of the day, a little more tuckered out but still happy - still my dog.

one day though, i got a call from the handler while she was at an event, and i knew instantly that something was wrong.

"there's been... an accident."

my heart sunk, my hands went cold, my vision swam.


"but it's going to be ok! i promise. how soon can you be at the vet? we'll cover your fare."

"uh, i'm, uh, headed there right now. it'll take me maybe... two hours?"

"see you there."

feeling slightly reassured but still anxious, i hopped in a cab, the fastest way to get to the city.

"oh good, you're here." said someone in the waiting room. i recognized them from the broadcaster. "mustard is right this way."

we walked into an examination room, and the handler and the vet are there with mustard, who was hooked up to some strange-looking machinery, had surgical scars, and an iv in her. she was breathing.

"oh, thank fuck..." i gasped out, and ran to put my hand on her. "what happened?"

"well... she died." said the vet. "a car hit her."


"she sustained major trauma to vital organs, and had severe bone damage."

"h-how is she... alive?"

"we fixed her. replaced her broken parts with working ones, from donors who died in good condition. new bones, new heart, new lungs, new brain. then we gave her body a experimental drug. it not strictly speaking legal, so we have to keep it a secret, but i'm one of only a handful of experts on it in the world. doing this costs a fortune. but your benefactors here -" (the handler waved) "insisted it was worth the cost to them."

a cocktail of nausea, relief, and disgust welled up inside me.

"i... um... t-thank you? thanks. " i said, but i wasn't actually so sure that gratitude is what i was feeling. "but... why?"

"the contract cannot be terminated without our consent." said the handler, with a smile.