“Only minds and the contents of minds truly exist–or rather, they are the only things we, as minds ourselves, can assume to exist,” said Beulah.

“Yes, yes, I know all about Berkeleian idealism,” Mayra said. “I’ve read Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, even if I’m not sure how to pronounce it.”

“Use a longer ‘O’ sound for the ‘ö,'” said Beulah, still leading Mayra through the elaborate IDC security checks. “But you’ve got the right idea: anything that enough people think of becomes real.”

“Regardless, you still haven’t told me what the Idealism Control Bureau does.” The IDC agents handed Mayra her bag, thoroughly inspected, and she followed Beulah beneath a sign that said RECEIVING.

“The IDC is in charge of cleaning up the mess that happens when too many people have an idiotic idea. And, despite what you would imagine, it happens just as often to smart people as idiots.” Beulah gave Mayra an airy look. “Sometimes more often in point of fact.”

“And what exactly, does that entail?” asked Mayra, a bit sick of Beulah’s constant, if low-key, insults.

“Perhaps it’s easier to just show you.” Beulah opened a door and led Mayra into what looked like a pen for small animals with a fenced-in observation area. “These were brought in this morning, from a Metromart in Virginia.”

“What the-” Mayra began, before taking a closer look. “Ugh! How hideous!”

Several large brown cubes, brown and furred, lay across the floor on a bedding of loose straw. About a foot square, they appeared to be some kind of avant-garde taxidermy until one rolled over to reveal four stubby paws and a mewling feline face. One side of each cube was hollow, with a circular opening leading into an internal cavity with a leathery texture.

“What the hell are those?”

“They are the result of pedants obsessed with punctuation and style coming across a poorly-kerned product label in the Metromart pet section,” chuckled Beulah. “For an ‘imitation leather cat ottoman.'”

“So…those are leather cat ottomans?” said Mayra.

“Hardly. They’re imitations, as I said.”

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