There’s a village where every man who does not shave himself gets shaved by the local barber b1. Then we have two sets of men.

Which set does the barber belong to?

This barber goes out of town, five hundred miles away, just to meet with another town’s barber. This second barber, b2, goes every month to the next town over to meet b3. Thus continues the cycle until b28 goes on the 28th of each month and visits b1.

Nobody but the barbers know this secret. The supposed chain is a cycle, often represented in the symbol of a soap bubble with an inscribed razorblade. They all carry this sacred symbol on a ring and allow them to recognize each other through the generations.

Every master has one and only one apprentice. His last lesson is to travel alone to the next town and find its master barber. No explanations, no clues, no warnings.

Most apprentices never make it. They immediately try and enter a random barbershop and ask the barber where he gets his hair cut, then go there, trying to climb up the ladder. But alas, this marks a flawed apprentice, for he should remember his master as always looking sharp and clean, but never witnessing his getting groomed. The observant apprentice will look for a man just like his master, the unshaved shaver. This often takes years.

Those who triumph end up carving their own ring, getting a haircut and returning to their hometown to announce proudly to their master that the task is done, only to find the barbershop empty and a gentleman with a particular ring asking for service.

The cycle begins anew.

(originally written for BQ 2019, unable to improve it since then.)

I must use the daylight to keep looking and the nights to write ⇐ Part of Brevity Quest 2020 (284 words) ⇒ elevator pitch

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