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The Inner Circle by Johno

It was a sweltering afternoon in the heart of the city. I had flown in for a high-stakes seminar, where the fate of lucrative deals hung in the balance. Prospective clients would scrutinize my every move, evaluating not just my pitch but also my appearance. And so, with a sense of urgency, I decided to visit Mo's corner barbershop—a quaint, unassuming place recommended by the lady at the tourist information desk.

Mo's stood at the end of a narrow street, its faded sign swinging gently in the breeze. The scent of clipper oil and shaving cream wafted through the air, mingling with the pungent cologne that clung to the walls. The shop's interior was a time capsule—a relic from a bygone era. The floor creaked underfoot, and the mirrors bore the marks of countless haircuts.

As I stepped inside, I was greeted by a trio of barbers. Three generations, each with their own chair: Mo Snr, Ahmed, and Moggie. Mo and Ahmed were busy tending to other customers, their scissors snipping rhythmically. But it was Moggie who caught my eye—a man with closely cropped black hair, a twinkle in his eye, and a smile that put me at ease.

He gestured toward his chair, an antique throne upholstered in faded leather. "Sit," he said, his voice gravelly yet warm. "What brings you here?"

I explained my predicament—the unruly waves of hair that clung to my scalp, the desperate need for a tidy, professional look. "Off the ears, off the collar," I instructed. "A standard business cut."

Moggie's fingers danced across my scalp, assessing the situation. His comb glided through my dark, thick locks, and he studied my reflection in the mirror. Then, with a confidence that bordered on audacity, he declared, "This won't suit you."

I blinked. "What do you mean?"

"Your hair," he said, leaning in. "It's rebellious, wild. It needs more than a trim. Trust me."

I hesitated. Mo Snr and Ahmed nodded in agreement, their eyes twinkling. "Listen to Moggie," they chorused.

And so, I nervously surrendered. Moggie worked swiftly, his clippers buzzing loudly. He started on the left, shearing away great swaths of hair. The mirror reflected my transformation—the unruly waves replaced by a cropped canvas. My thick hair fell unceremoniously to the floor. Panic beat in my chest, but I held my ground. There was no turning back now.

As he moved to the back, Moggie's touch became more assured. The clippers danced along my nape, leaving a trail of closely sheared hair. And then, with a flourish, he attacked the right side. The damage was done, irreversible.

"Almost there," Moggie murmured about the noise.

The smaller clippers now hummed rhythmically, their high-pitched whirring assaulting my senses. Moggie's hands moved with precision, each pass stripping away more of my already shortened hair. Panic surged within me—I felt like a sheep being shaved bare.

I could see my skin above my ears, right up to both temples.

Then came the bigger clippers, their number 1 guard leaving no room for compromise. They swept from my forehead to the crown, once, twice, a third time, the again mowing down the remnants of my once-wild mane. My fringe fell away as he continued to remove what hair remained. The hair fell in limp surrender, littering the sheet around me. I had never seen myself with such short hair—it was as if my identity had been shorn away along with the locks.

Moggie's gaze remained steady in the mirror. He blended the sides seamlessly with the top, the clippers dancing along the contours of my skull. More hair fell, a cascade of dark strands. And then, with a flourish, he reached for the straight razor—a gleaming blade that promised finality.

The razor glided across my scalp, its touch both intimate and clinical. Moggie's movements were deliberate, each stroke refining my new hairstyle. I watched as the remnants of my unruly waves vanished, replaced by a polished sheen. The mirror reflected a man transformed—a stranger who bore my features but wore a different skin.

When he finally stepped back, removing the sheet, I tried to muster enthusiasm. But devastation gnawed at my gut. The floor was a mosaic of discarded hair, a testament to my surrender. Ahmed and Mo approached, their eyes wide with approval. "You can walk out of here with your head held high," they declared.

Back at the hotel, I stood before the bathroom mirror, hesitantly running my fingers over the stubble. It was alien, I was a shaved warrior ready to do battle. The weight of my former self had lifted, somehow leaving behind a newfound confidence.

Dressed in my crisply ironed suit, I left my room and made my way to the conference center. The foyer resonated with anticipation. I had never met the local team and there they stood— clad in the all too recognisable company dark green blazers and deep orange ties. Four men, their hair uniformly cropped to less than a centimeter. Two were clipper-shaved, their scalps gleaming. The director of the office sported a severe flattop, more scalp than hair. And then, there was the fourth gentleman—the one with a hairstyle almost identical to mine.

I introduced myself with confident authority. I was welcomed to the inner circle. As we exchanged nods, I knew that the split-second decision—the choice to trust Moggie—had sealed the deal.

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