Feigning a Fine Fettle

Home » writing exercise » “The First Cut,” excerpt from The Handbook for Information Extraction, 3rd Edition

“The First Cut,” excerpt from The Handbook for Information Extraction, 3rd Edition

The first cut is not always the deepest. In fact, it almost certainly never is. The deeper cuts come later and the deepest of all at the end. Examination of “advanced stage cuts” will come in due course.

Glossary Term!

Cut – a general term to describe any method of extraction; used in this sense, not necessarily the literal “cut” of a knife

As all extractors well know, information extraction is a formalized progression. Though the subject, extractor, information, and cuts may change, the steps that prove most efficient are linear and immutable. The previous chapter covered anticipation, concluding that it rarely offers valuable information on its own. The next step after anticipation is the so-called “first cut.”

What is to be said about the first cut, then? What significance does it hold in the process of information extraction?

“The first cut is always the most scarring — not to the body, but to the mind” – Master Extractor Piven

The first cut is everything. This is where information extraction begins. With it, all self-delusion and self-assurance are dispelled. No matter the nature or manner of the cut, it indelibly imprints upon the subject the nature and manner of their predicament. Whether you cut the tip of a finger off, slice an ear from the head, or pull a nail or tooth, the first cut is the first minute crack, like tapping a hole in a glass jar full of water — the water begins to leak and the vessel is compromised.

It is a curious and invariable fact that a subject will, up to the point of the first cut, reserve hope that the information extraction will not take place. That there will be a last minute change of heart from the information extractor, that a clerical error will be revealed and an administrative assistant will come running into the information extraction chamber and call for a halt on the process.

Then there are some who feel as if they can weather the process through mental suppression, personal discipline, and/or subscription to personal ideals or loyalty to their allegiance. They’ll bandy bravado like a shield, and may even urge the extractor to proceed immediately with the information extraction. The reality is that after the first cut, their bravado will seep out of them like so much wine from a punctured skin.

This is the beauty of the first cut — all at once, it dispels lingering hope, puts doubt in the mind, sets the tone for the rest of the information extraction process, and oftentimes offers up the first valuable piece of information that the extractor can begin to wheedle at.

 What are the best first cuts one can make?

There is no “best” first cut. The best first cut is up to the judgement of a discerning information extractor based off of his subject and the information that is at stake (high value information or information with a narrow dissemination — the two often go hand-in-hand — generally dictate that the first cut causes but minimal harm so as to minimize the risk of premature expiration of the subject).

That being said, there are classic openings in the process of information extraction that have undeniable charm, so to speak. For example, the aforementioned cutting of a finger tip, slicing an ear from the head, or pulling a nail by its bed or a tooth by its root are all advisable openings.

Other recommended first cuts include dunking the head under water repeatedly, using a hammer or mallet to crush appendages, using heat to brand the flesh or blind the eyes, genital mutilation, or flaying skin from the back.


It is not recommended that the tongue be cut from the subject, as this will greatly hinder or completely eliminate the ability to communicate information with the extractor. The threat of cutting the tongue out may be employed, but it is best to avoid any threat that you don’t intend to carry out.

The best rule of thumb, even if the subject is not high-value, is to initiate with a cut that is far from fatal, yet excruciatingly painful. It must also leave unimpeded the subject’s mental faculties and ability to communicate. Ideally, for purposes of crushing the will of the subject, it is best to target a body part that they will sorely miss.

A comprehensive list of non-fatal body parts and senses that may be taken with the first cut:

  • Digits, both fingers and toes
  • Appendages (limit to one complete hand or foot)
  • Eyes (or eyesight)
  • Ears (or hearing)
  • Nose
  • Teeth
  • Nails
  • Nipples
  • Genitals
  • Patches of skin

Burns are also effective, as well as breaking/dislocating bones (avoid the head, neck, and spine, as these carry a high risk for unintended premature expiration of the subject).

Continued on next page…

From a flash fiction challenge at terribleminds.com.

Opening line courtesy of “georgie538”

Give it to me straight.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: