Please judge the story by what I decided to post, although I did write an alternative ending. I could not decide which version was better. Jun Aoi liked it better with the ending hanging, but a lot of you were asking for resolution.
"Mother, must I?" Winifred asked. For the first time, she hesitated.
"The dead must be fed," her mother said.
"Not by me," Winifred replied.
With a clean, swift stroke she chopped off her mother's head.
Still clenching the handle of her ax, Winifred put on her red cloak. She picked up the oil lamp from her mother's bedside and made sure it was full. With all the strength she still possessed, she hurled it at the wall. Her mother's bedclothes caught fire as if they had been dipped in pitch.
As the sun began to rise, Winifred left home for the last time.
The smoke from her burning home followed her down the road. It smelled like blackened bread.
After nearly an hour's walk she met a farmer with a cartload of hay. He was her nearest neighbor, so he knew who she was, and he seemed surprised to see her so far from home.
"Winifred? Where are you going?" The farmer waved.
Winifred paused. What a strange question!
"Wherever I want," she replied. Those words felt funny to speak.
"Has your mother given you permission to leave your farm?" The farmer seemed worried.
"No. My mother would never let me leave," Winifred said, not wanting to explain what had actually happened. That response felt true to her. If she had not failed to bake the bread, would she have grown to be an old maid alone on the edge of the woods, forever feeding the restless dead?
"Aren't you usually an obedient girl?" The farmer asked.
Perhaps that was the problem.
And so Winifred decided never to follow anyone's instructions again, unless she determined through her own close examination that what they were asking her to do was both right and necessary.